P.G. lawmaker proposes Six Flags exemption to ‘regional minimum wage’ law

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Mr. Baker always supported raising the minimum wage, but he’s always expressed concern of keeping the county economically competitive,” Mr. Peterson said. “He would not want to see this legislation turn away an important company such as Six Flags.”

Mr. Iannucci agreed that keeping Six Flags viable was important to the county.

“To the extent that it could threaten the continued operation of Six Flags in Prince George’s County, it’s a very significant issue that needs to be addressed,” he said of the minimum wage exemption. He declined to say whether Six Flags officials suggested leaving the county if the bill stands.

Reached at his Largo office Monday, Mr. Gibbs deferred comment to Six Flags’ corporate offices.

Havilah Ross, a spokeswoman for the amusement park, said she was unable to reach executives who could answer questions about the wage exemption bill and to what degree the company lobbied legislators.

During his November presentation before the county, Mr. Gibbs said 72 percent of seasonal employees hired by the amusement park are county residents. Highlighting the $5.5 million in taxes that the park pays annually, Mr. Gibbs said that the company might have to re-evaluate how many employees it hires if the amusement park is not exempt from the wage hike.

Activists worry that an exemption could encourage other industries to seek similar treatment.

“Anytime you create an exemption for certain groups of people, that distorts what you are trying to push for,” said Ari Weisbard, of the D.C.-based Employment Justice Center. “It’s a basic floor, and once you start letting people go below, it’s a slippery slope.”

“There is the appearance of political favoritism,” Mr. Weisbard added.

Jack Temple, a policy analyst with the New York-based National Employment Law Project that supports wage increases, said businesses are often able to pocket extra savings and benefit from lower employee turnover when the minimum wage is increased.

“We don’t think its good policy,” he said. “We don’t think a seasonal company like that should be exempted.”

Mr. Davis said he would not consider exemption amendments for any other type of business and that he waited to introduce the exemption so the County Council could pass the minimum-wage bill as smoothly as similar bills did in Montgomery County and the District.

Lawmakers increased the minimum wage in the District after a failed effort last year to raise wages to $12.50 per hour at certain large retailers.

Wal-Mart, the principal target of the legislation, threatened to abandon plans to build six stores in the city if the legislation passed. Mayor Vincent C. Gray vetoed the bill before the council adopted the version that raises the minimum wage for most businesses in phases, reaching $11.50 per hour in 2016.

Mr. Gray has not said whether he would sign or veto the bill, having stated his preference for a $10 minimum wage. But the bill, which passed the council unanimously, seems likely to survive any mayoral veto.

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