ROCKVILLE, Md. (WJLA) – Montgomery County is one of the nation’s wealthiest counties, and it’s now looking to promote its lowest paid citizens by increasing minimum wage to $12 an hour.
Councilmember Marc Elrich says that $12 an hour may sound drastic – but it is desperately needed.
"The better the wages are at the bottom, the less money the government is spending on social programs, [and] the less bureaucracy you need to administer social programs," he said. "It's like what's not to like about this from any political perspective."
Some small business owners, however, are experiencing sticker shock. “Taste of Europe” in Gaithersburg pays its seven employees $11 to $13 an hour. And an increase in minimum wage would mean higher prices for customers.
"It's kind of bad because we as ordinary citizens would have to compensate for that." says customer Irina Haltermin.
"I'm willing to pay whatever the extra costs are because I think the people who work deserve to make something closer to a living wage," says another customer, Hal Garman.
This initiative happens to be running simultaneously with two others, as Maryland Attorney General and gubernatorial candidate Doug Gansler pushes for a statewide minimum wage of $10 an hour. And in D.C., a bill currently sits on Mayor Vincent Gray’s desk that, if signed, will require certain big box retailers to pay $12.50 an hour.
"They're going to put it back into the local businesses in their neighborhood," says Elrich. "It's real hard for me to see a downside to this."
Looking ahead, Councilman Elrich will introduce his proposal when the council resumes session on September 10. A public hearing and vote could come by mid-October.