Minimum wage increased enacted in Prince George's, approved in D.C.

Baker signed the bill alongside the county's council. Photo: Brad Bell

(WJLA) - The District of Columbia and Prince George's County both took major steps Tuesday toward raising their minimum wages, with one council approving a hike and another signing it into law.

Prince George's County became Maryland's second jurisdiction to officially approve a drastic increase in its minimum wage.

County Executive Rushern Baker signed into law Tuesday a bill that would gradually increase his county's minimum wage to $11.50 per hour.

"We are really trying to make sure that the men and women who live and work in Prince George's County can have a quality of life," Baker said. "I don't think it puts us at that great a disadvantage, because we're doing it all together.

Meanwhile, the D.C. Council approved it's own minimum wage hike as well, voting unanimously to increase the city's minimum wage to that same threshold by 2016.

The District's bill also includes the adoption of paid sick days for restaurant workers.

Prince George's County's increase from its current minimum wage, which is $7.25 per hour, would go up about a dollar every year through 2017, at which point it will reach the new minimum.

The county is the second one this month to officially approve a wage hike. On Dec. 5, Montgomery County Executive Ike Leggett signed a similar bill into law. Montgomery County's legislation will also see minimum wage go up incrementally, eventually reaching $11.50 as well by October 2017.

Supporters of the bill hope it will attract more workers to the county, but critics fear the measure may force some employers out.

Meanwhile, in the District, where the minimum wage currently sits at $8.25, the wage will go up a dollar every July starting in 2014.

Tuesday's vote comes several months after Mayor Vincent Gray rejected a bill that would have forced large retailers to pay their employees $12.50 per hour, which is $4.25 more than the city's existing minimum.

This bill now goes to Mayor Gray for his signature.

One place that's not riding the trend of updating its minimum wage laws is Northern Virginia, where local lawmakers are pleased with the status quo.

Some worry that the higher labor cost will drive businesses across the river from places like National Harbor to Alexandria or anywhere else in Virginia, where the minimum wage will remain at $7.25 for the forseeable future.

"Legislatively, the living wage issue...I don't see it as a heavy priority this year," Virginia Del. Vivian Watts, D-Fairfax County, said.

Back in Maryland, the next step toward a higher statewide minimum wage will likely take place at the State House in Annapolis. It's expected that the legislature will take up a statewide hike - if not this spring, then under a new governor in 2015.