A bill that would raise Baltimore's minimum wage to $15 per hour by 2022 advanced in the city council today by the slimmest of margins, and its prospects at the final vote next week are still uncertain.
The bill, under discussion since the spring, received seven yes votes to four no votes, with three council members abstaining and one, First District Councilman James Kraft, absent. As he had previously signaled, City Council President Bernard C. "Jack" Young voted against.
Councilman Robert Curran (3rd District) began the session by introducing six amendments, including a carve-out for businesses with 25 or fewer employees, an exemption for youth and full-time students, and a stretch of the implementation of the full $15 wage from 2020 to 2022. Those amendments barely passed, with yes votes from Curran, 2nd District Councilman Brandon Scott, 4th District Councilman Bill Henry, 6th District Councilwoman Sharon Green Middleton, 7th District Councilman Nick Mosby, 10th District Councilman Edward Reisinger, and 14th District Councilwoman Mary Pat Clarke.
Councilwoman Helen Holton (8th District) then offered her own amendments, which were narrowly voted down. Then, as Curran tried to move the bill, Councilman Eric Costello (11th District) broke in with his own amendment, that the city's minimum wage raise would not take effect unless Baltimore and Anne Arundel counties raise theirs as well.
The current bill creates a "severe competitive disadvantage" to Baltimore City businesses, Costello said. His amendment failed.
"My concern is that it will drive citizens from other jurisdictions into Baltimore for higher wages," Holton said as she abstained from the final vote on the bill. She says she believes higher skilled and more mobile county residents will thereby take jobs from city residents.
"We have not done a good job of developing an able-bodied and effective workforce in Baltimore City," Holton said after the meeting.
The council will take the bill up for final passage next week.