City Council Won’t Attempt Override of Pugh’s $15 Minimum Wage Veto

The effort to raise Baltimore’s minimum wage to $15 an hour is dead — at least for now.

Two weeks after the City Council backed the wage hike by a veto-proof majority, the bill’s lead sponsor said Monday she had failed to collect enough signatures to even attempt an override of Mayor Catherine Pugh’s veto.

According to The Baltimore Sun,

“It has been laid to rest,” City Councilwoman Mary Pat Clarke said of the legislation, after acknowledging just six of her colleagues had joined her in trying to force a vote to override the veto. She needed 10 council votes to force an override attempt.

But Clarke said she wasn’t done fighting for a $15 minimum wage. She suggested she would try to launch a petition drive to place the matter before voters in the 2018 election.

“The fight for $15 goes on,” Clarke said.

Due to a little-known provision in city law and scheduling issues, council members needed to hold a special meeting within the next two weeks to attempt to override Pugh’s veto. But while 12 of the council’s 15 members supported the $15 minimum-wage legislation — the exact number needed to override a mayoral veto — just seven signed Clarke’s letter calling for a special meeting to do so.

Council members Zeke Cohen, Ryan Dorsey, Bill Henry, John Bullock, Kristerfer Burnett and Shannon Sneed signed Clarke’s letter calling for a vote on the veto override. Five of the seven are freshmen on the council.

After Pugh said she was vetoing the bill, City Councilman Edward Reisinger announced he was withdrawing his support of it. And City Council President Bernard C. “Jack” Young and Councilman Robert Stokes said they would not sign Clarke’s letter forcing an override vote.

When running for mayor, Pugh told labor unions she would sign the $15 minimum-wage bill if it reached her desk. Pugh said she changed her position, in part, because of the budget problems she encountered after taking office in December, including a $130 million schools budget deficit she is trying to help close. The mayor allocated $22 million in her first budget proposal to help that effort.

The Pugh administration estimated the minimum-wage bill would cost the city $116 million over four years, including the expense of paying city workers a higher minimum wage. Some businesses said they would offset higher costs by raising prices, laying off workers, putting expansion plans on hold or looking for sites outside the city.

The vetoed bill, which would have raised the minimum wage to $15 per hour by 2022, exempted workers younger than 21 and gave businesses with fewer than 50 employees until 2026 to comply.

Even with the veto, Baltimore’s minimum wage is increasing along with the rate statewide under legislation Pugh supported while in the state Senate. The rate in Maryland will rise to $9.25 on July 1 and to $10.10 a year later.

Pugh said advocates should focus on raising the wage at the state level. She said an economic imbalance between the wages of Baltimore and its surrounding counties could cause jobs to leave and unemployment to rise.

“We are on target to continue to raise the minimum wage,” Pugh said, noting the minimum wage will rise for the next two years. “The fight for $15 goes out to 2026. … We will be pushing just as hard as we can as at the state level. We may be past $15 by 2026.”

Useful Links

The Baltimore Sun Article

Previous Conduit Street Coverage: Pugh Vetoes $15 Minimum Wage Bill