Leggett Vetoes $15 Minimum Wage Bill

Montgomery County executive asks that county study economic impact of the increase


Montgomery County Executive Ike Leggett

File photo/ Aaron Kraut

The “fight for $15” will continue in Montgomery County.

Montgomery County Executive Ike Leggett on Monday vetoed legislation that would have increased the minimum wage in the county to $15 per hour by 2020.

In a memo to County Council President Roger Berliner, Leggett wrote he vetoed the bill because of his concern about the competitive disadvantage the county could face economically when compared to nearby jurisdictions that have not approved significant minimum wage increases.

So far, the only other local jurisdiction to approve increasing the minimum wage to $15 per hour by 2020 is Washington, D.C.

Leggett, a Democrat, also wrote the council should work to find more support for a new bill that could increase the minimum wage at a later point. The bill that Leggett vetoed passed the nine-member, all-Democrat council with a 5-4 vote last week. Supporters were unable to get the 6-3 majority or more required to override Leggett's veto.

Leggett said the council should provide the county with time to study the local economic impact of raising the minimum wage to $15 per hour.

“While some experts may disagree, I believe in an expeditious and timely study of relevant issues on the fiscal and economic impact of an increase in the minimum wage on Montgomery County,” Leggett wrote. “I maintain that a study will better inform the council on the direct and indirect impacts on private employers’ bottom line as well as the impact on county government.”

Leggett called for an impact study to be completed by July. He noted the county does not have the same economic environment as other cities that have enacted similar legislation to raise the minimum wage. Similar arguments were made by the opponents of the bill—Berliner, Sidney Katz, Nancy Floreen and Craig Rice.

“Unlike Seattle or New York City, we are not a ‘destination city’ that draws great numbers of business travelers or tourists that will be able to afford higher costs for short-term visits,” Leggett wrote. “Our residents will essentially shoulder the bulk of the cost.”

Council member Marc Elrich led the fight for passage of the bill and was supported by his colleagues George Leventhal, Tom Hucker, Nancy Navarro and Hans Riemer.

Elrich said last week after the bill’s passage that the pay increases would help tens of thousands of local residents who live in poverty or close to poverty by providing a more substantial income.

Leventhal said economists have long studied the impact of minimum wage increases and have not been able to come to a consensus. He argued that giving more time to study the economic impact on the county would not provide the council with definitive information.

Leggett wrote he would only support legislation that was based on an economic study focused on the county and that include exemptions for youth workers and small businesses with less than 26 employees, and wasn’t fully implemented until  2022.

Leggett said the 2020 date for increasing to $15 per hour is “too fast.”

The council bill, if approved by Leggett, would have continued incremental increases in the minimum wage that began after the council approved a minimum wage hike in 2013. The county’s minimum wage is set to rise to $11.50 in July. Then the increases stop unless county officials approve a different bill.

Prince George’s minimum wage is scheduled to also rise to $11.50 later this year, while the Maryland minimum wage is scheduled to rise to $10.10 in July 2018. Virginia’s minimum wage is the same as the federal wage—$7.25 per hour.

County Executive Ike Leggett on Minimum Wage Bill by AJ Metcalf on Scribd



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