MARYLAND

Maryland minimum wage could increase

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Living on $7.25 an hour is tough. It's the current minimum wage in Maryland, but one Montgomery County councilmember wants to raise that amount. And if that bill passes, it could kick in by July 1, 2014.

In the first year, employees would get $8.25 per hour, and then the rate would grow annually over three years.

After hearing stories of families struggling financially in his own community, At-Large councilmember Marc Elrich decided to introduce a bill that would set the minimum wage from $7.25 to $11.50 an hour.

"There was a real awareness that something's got to give," said Elrich.

With an hourly rate of $7.25, that equals just $15,000 a year for a full-time, year-round worker.

Based on U.S. census data, 6.3-percent of the county population lives below the poverty level.

Montgomery College student Carla Duran said at her current employer, "I started at $7.25, now I'm at $8.25."

Duran said her bills and her college tuition would become more manageable with a higher wage.

She said, "When I got paid $7.25, I had to wait for two checks to come in."

The proposal would apply to certain private sector employers in the county, and would also offer a credit for those who provide health insurance to employees.

Taking note of the budget battle in Washington, Elrich said, "I felt compelled because waiting for Congress to act, you could wait forever."

The goal is to move forward in collaboration with Prince George's County and the District.

Next week, all three jurisdictions are expected to make an announcement on their efforts. Meanwhile, Montgomery County residents will get a chance to weigh in on the measure at a public hearing October 24.

Here's a link to the bill: http://www6.montgomerycountymd.gov/content/council/pdf/bill/2013/Packets/20131001_6a.pdf.

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