Minimum wage battle: Lawmakers looking to raise minimum wage

WASHINGTON (AP/ABC7) - House and Senate Democrats want to raise the minimum wage to $10.10 an hour, more than a dollar higher than President Barack Obama proposed in his State of the Union address.

Iowa Sen. Tom Harkin and California Rep. George Miller say their bill, introduced Tuesday, would boost the minimum from its current rate of $7.25 an hour by 2015. It then calls for automatic annual increases tied to changes in the cost of living.

Obama's proposal last month called for an increase to $9 an hour, but Harkin says that doesn't go far enough.

The lawmakers say a hike in the minimum wage would help lift millions of workers out of poverty and boost the economy. But top Republicans have rejected the idea, saying it would hurt employers.

Closer to home, the Maryland Senate Finance Committee is considering a bill that would increase Maryland's minimum wage to $10 an hour by 2015.

The state's current minimum wage is $7.25 per hour, the same as the federal rate.

Marcus Jamison of Suitland asked, " can you survive on $7.25 when you're paying a thousand dollars in rent?"

"Anyone who does an honest day's work...should be able to support a family...and you can't do that on $7.25 an hour," added Bowie resident Nichelle Fullen.

Supporters of the measure say that Maryland workers are in desperate need of a raise and insist that higher wages would increase consumer spending and inject millions into the state's economy.

Opponents of the legislation argue that a wage increase would drive up employer costs, causing higher prices for consumers and possible layoffs.

The plan is the raise the minimum wage $1 by this summer; and using a sliding scale, raise it to $9 per hour by summer 2014 and $10 an hour by July 2015.

If passed, the legislation under consideration Thursday would also raise the minimum wage for tipped workers from 50 percent to 70 percent of the full minimum wage.