State minimum wage hike would be bad for Shore businesses

Two weeks ago the Salisbury Area Chamber provided testimony in Annapolis before the state Senate Finance Committee on Senate Bill 280, which with its House companion bill would raise Maryland’s minimum wage to $15 per hour by 2023.

This next state-imposed employer mandate could be a killer for Eastern Shore businesses across all business sectors.

The Chambers’ testimony included the appeal to legislators that neighboring Delaware and Virginia would reap a large competitive advantage over Shore businesses, due to their much-lower minimum wages and their proximity to Maryland.

Last week, the House of Delegates made several small adjustments in their version of the bill, including extending the full implementation of $15 per hour to 2025.

More needs to be done to amend this onerous legislation, which is surely a job killer.

The Senate Finance Committee will be voting on this bill.

The Salisbury Area Chamber is urging that body to remember that “one size fits all” legislation does not work when proposing a new and higher minimum wage

Western Maryland jurisdictions and the Eastern Shore have markedly lower costs of living and wages as compared to Montgomery, Howard and Prince George’s counties.

The Salisbury Area Chamber of Commerce is in strict opposition to any increase in minimum wage.

We are hopeful that if there is an increase, the General Assembly and the Maryland Senate Finance Committee will adopt a two-tiered system.

As already established in the “Living Wage Rate” by state Labor Licensing and Regulation officials, Western Maryland and the Eastern Shore are “Tier 2” areas, with $3.47 per hour in lower living wages.

This should be given serious consideration when approaching any increases in the minimum wage.

If the increase is applied statewide without exceptions, Maryland and the Shore will lose jobs, businesses will move or close and the popular perception that Maryland is not “business friendly” will be promoted.

Additionally, the Salisbury Area Chamber of Commerce is strongly urging that the tip credit, training wage, agricultural wage and exemptions for commission employees be eliminated from SB 280 and remain unchanged, as currently prescribed under the current laws.

The Eastern Shore was one of the last regions in Maryland to recover from the devastating recession of several years ago.

If Maryland wants to remain competitive in our region and the United States, legislation such as this defeats that goal.          

Bill Chambers is President & CEO of the Salisbury Area Chamber of Commerce.

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