Montgomery County Executive Ike Leggett wants a county council committee to rewrite a bill that would increase the county’s minimum wage gradually to $15, according to a memo he sent council President Nancy Floreen Tuesday.
“I am concerned about the county being put in a competitive disadvantage relative to our neighboring jurisdictions,” Leggett wrote in the memo. “While there is debate among experts as to the economic impact of an increase in the minimum wage, at least some believe it could lead to businesses moving across local borders, taking tax revenue with them and making it more difficult for local employees to find jobs.”
Currently set at $10.75 an hour, the minimum wage increases to $11.50 an hour on July 1, 2017 under legislation that passed in 2013. Under the new bill, the minimum wage would increase to $12.50 in 2018, to $13.75 in 2019 and to $15 in 2020.
The state minimum wage is $8.75 an hour, increasing to $9.25 in 2017, and $10.10 in 2018. The federal minimum wage is $7.25 an hour and has not increased since 2009.
“I’m a cosponsor of the bill, and I’m open to stretching out the date further,” council member George Leventhal said Wednesday. Leventhal chairs the council’s Health and Human Services (HHS) Committee, which is considering the measure.
In his memo, Leggett said he wants the council to consider how an increased minimum wage will affect employers’ bottom lines. Not only would there be increased payroll costs, but the businesses would face increased costs in their contracts, he said. The county would face similar increases, he said.
He also said the county executive should have the authority to cancel an automatic increase in case of an economic downturn.
The bill could prove to be an interesting political exercise for the council. The bill has five cosponsors, enough to pass in the nine-member body. In addition to Leventhal, the bill’s cosponsors are Hans Riemer, Nancy Navarro and Tom Hucker. The lead sponsor is Marc Elrich.
However, Leventhal could be the bill’s only supporter in the HHS committee. Committee member Craig Rice opposes the bill and member Roger Berliner said Wednesday he will hold off his decision until he sees a staff analysis of the bill, which is expected Dec. 5. The HHS Committee is expected to meet shortly thereafter.
“I’m prepared to vote for the bill and report it out,” Leventhal said.
Even if Berliner opposes the bill, it will be sent to the full council. Unlike the General Assembly where a committee can kill legislation, all bills go before the full council.
“No bill gets killed in our process,” Berliner said.
By then, Berliner likely will be council president and be able to decide when the council will have its vote.
“I’d imagine a February time frame,” he said.