Lawmakers in Montgomery County, Prince George’s County and the District on Wednesday will announce a coordinated effort to create a regional minimum wage of $11.50 per hour.
The proposal will raise the minimum wage in the District by more than $3 an hour and in the Maryland counties by more than $4 an hour.
“Persistent poverty is the reflection of the persistence of low wages in our economy,” Montgomery County Council member Marc B. Elrich said in a statement. “In our region, the impact of low wages is especially harsh.”
Maryland’s minimum wage is $7.25 an hour, and Montgomery County and Prince George’s County pay that wage. The current minimum wage in the District is $8.25 an hour.
“One of the things we do know about the District of Columbia is it’s a high-cost area,” said Karla Walter, associate director of the American Worker Project at the Center for American Progress. “So you’re asking workers in Prince George’s County and Montgomery County to get by on $7.25 an hour. That’s hard enough for workers in cheaper areas, but at a higher threshold it’s even harder.”
Mr. Elrich, at-large Democrat, proposed his county minimum wage bill last month. The bill originally was set to raise the minimum wage over three years: $8.25 an hour in 2014, $9.75 in 2015 and $12 in 2016.
Mr. Elrich has said he would change the rate to $11.50 an hour to complement the bills in the District and Prince George’s County.
In Maryland, jurisdictions can pass their own minimum wage standards as long as they are above the state minimum wage.
The minimum wage bill in Prince George’s County was proposed Oct. 1 by Council Chairwoman Andrea C. Harrison and Councilman Jamel R. (Mel) Franklin, both Democrats. The bill is similar to the legislation proposed by Mr. Elrich, with wage increases phased in over the next few years.
David Harrington, president of the Prince George’s County Chamber of Commerce, said his organization was looking forward “to being a part of the dialogue to help employees get fair wages.”
“We also want to see how this advances the business climate in Prince George’s County,” he said. “Obviously, anything that adds costs to their bottom lines, [businesses] always want to be concerned by that. At same time, they want to be able to attract the best employees possible.”
A spokeswoman in the office of D.C. Council Chairman Phil Mendelson said this multijurisdictional proposal was a “positive” sign, and the chairman’s office had reached out to jurisdictions in Virginia.
Virginia’s minimum wage is $7.25 an hour, but the state is a “Dillon Rule” state in which localities are limited in terms of what laws — including minimum wage legislation — they can enact.
The group effort to increase the D.C.-area minimum wage developed out of this summer’s heated debate in the District over a bill that would have required an increase in wages at some large retailers in the city — most notably Wal-Mart.
The Large Retailer Accountability Act, passed by the council but vetoed by Mayor Vincent C. Gray, put the District in the national spotlight after a standoff in which Wal-Mart threatened to not build three of six stores it planned in the city and to reconsider the timeline for the three other stores if the council action stood. Wal-Mart argued that it was being targeted unfairly and was one of several retailers that spoke out against the legislation.
The D.C. Chamber of Commerce opposed the bill but said it would be receptive to a discussion on the minimum wage in the District.
Ms. Walter said studies have shown that an increase to the minimum wage can be good for the economy.
“It doesn’t even kill jobs in economic hard times,” she said. “Minimum-wage workers cannot afford to be savers. They are spenders. Additional dollars they earn are spent quickly. That boosts local economies.”