Baltimore minimum wage surprise

by John McClaughry

Here’s some surprising news. The Democratic mayor of Baltimore, a black woman, vetoed a city council passed increase in the city’s minimum wage to $15 by the year 2022. The surprise is that Mayor Catherine Pugh was all for increasing the minimum wage when she won her election to that office last year.

She explained her veto by noting that raising the rate above the $8.75 an hour minimum that prevails in the rest of Maryland would send jobs and tax revenue out of Baltimore to surrounding counties. The increase would also have raised the city’s payroll costs by $116 million over the next four years when she’s already coping with a deficit of $130 million in the education budget.

Baltimore’s progressive element isn’t taking the veto lightly. One local lefty denounced her veto “an act of treason against the poor, the working poor, the underemployed, returning citizens, and single parents.” That’s true only if you’d rather have no job that pays an imaginary $15 an hour, or a real job that pays what an employer can afford and still stay in business.

Maryland’s minimum wage is set to rise to $9.25 in July and $10.10 a year later. That will cost some low-skilled workers their jobs, but not as many as a $15 mandate would. Mayor Pugh’s veto has dodged a speeding bullet for the city’s economy. Let’s hope there are more in other cities.

- John McClaughry is vice president of the Ethan Allen Institute.

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The Ethan Allen Institute is Vermont’s free-market public policy research and education organization. Founded in 1993, we are one of fifty-plus similar but independent state-level, public policy organizations around the country which exchange ideas and information through the State Policy Network.

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