Maryland Governor Martin O’Malley made his pitch for increasing the minimum wage for the sake of the middle class the centerpiece of his State of the State address today, his last as governor.
The minimum wage increase from 7.25 to $10.10 by 2016 he proposes will strengthen Maryland’s middle class, the governor contended in his noon address to a joint session of the General Assembly.
It will be “good for every Marylander, because it is good for our economy,” he said. With more people earning more money, they will be able to use those additional funds at local businesses, creating more customers to stimulate the economy.
“Prosperity doesn’t trickle down from the top,” he said. “A thriving middle class is not a consequence of growth and prosperity, it is the source of growth and prosperity.”
O’Malley noted ways in which the middle class has been strengthened during his seven years in office, including state investments in education and transportation infrastructure, raising the earned income tax credit and introducing a progressive income tax structure that lowered personal income tax rates for 86 percent of Marylanders, while increasing rates for taxpayers with higher earnings.
Most often, minimum wage workers are women working sometimes two jobs to provide for their children, but still not able to make ends meet. “This is not how our economy should work,” he said. “No person who works full time and plays by the rules should be forced to raise their family in poverty. Not in our state.”
O’Malley delivered an upbeat speech noting the accomplishments of his administration, and cheerleading for the State of Maryland.
“We’re not just one Maryland, in many cases we are now number one Maryland,” he said, referring to the state’s number one ranking in advanced placement scores, education, businesses owned by women and median household income.
O’Malley ended his final Maryland State of the State address with an overview of his hopes for the future, focusing on needed improvements to technology in education, environment and health.
“This generation seeks good ideas on level ground,” he said. “It is fundamentally entrepreneurial. It is the new way.”
In the Republican response to O’Malley’s State of the State speech, Senate Majority Leader David R. Brinkley noted that “there have been consequences to the policies established these last eight years. Not all of those consequences are positive.”
In rebuttal remarks aired on Maryland Public Television, Brinkley challenged the governor’s budget and tax policies, including increases to sales tax rates, income tax rate increases, increased tolls, higher vehicle fees, the so-called “rain tax” and “over 40 tax and fee increases in all.” He acknowledged that legislative leaders have begun to acknowledge Maryland’s tax issues by proposing to ease the estate tax burden this session.
Calling current economic policies in Annapolis “hostile” to the private sector, Brinkley criticized the push to increase the minimum wage. He urged policy makers to acknowledge that the minimum wage is an entry-level wage that “no one can, nor should expect to remain.”
Increasing the minimum wage would “raise the lowest rung of the career entry ladder and allow fewer positions for summer, holiday or entry-level workers,” Brinkley said.
He argued that a minimum wage increase would trigger a “ripple effect” where hourly workers above the lowest pay scale would look for corresponding increases in pay and that business owners would ultimately face cost pressures to reduce their workforces.
Brinkley said he agreed with the governor that Maryland is a “great state” well-positioned for future growth, particularly in technology industry sectors. “A thriving private sector – and the jobs it would create for Maryland families,” Brinkley said. He called on the next governor to “lighten the load on Maryland employers and job creators.”
Read the full State of the State speech here.