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There Are Two Marylands, and One Refuses to Listen to the Other

March 28, 2019 in Economics

By Walter Olson, Ryan Bourne

Walter Olson and Ryan Bourne

On the map, Maryland is not a large state, but economically it’s
big enough to encompass a stark contrast between a prosperous
midsection and a deeply depressed periphery two hours’ drive to the
east or west. One thing we’ve learned in this year’s debate over a
statewide $15 minimum wage, now set to become law after the
legislature overrode Gov. Larry Hogan’s (R) veto today, is that
affluent central Maryland doesn’t want to listen to hard-hit rural
Maryland.

According to the federal Bureau of Labor Statistics, average wages in Montgomery County ($1,333 a
week), Howard County ($1,220), and Baltimore City ($1,183) are more
than twice as high as those in Worcester County on the Eastern
Shore ($588 a week). Weekly wages in the three westernmost counties
ranged from $641 in Garrett to $736 in Allegany to $776 in
Washington, all figures being from the second quarter of 2017.

Affluent sections of
Maryland can vote for $15 without much worry that a large share of
their job base will disappear. Poor counties can’t.

In the debate over the $15 minimum wage, lawmakers from
Montgomery County, Baltimore City and Howard County were nearly
unanimously in favor, with most delegates supporting strong
versions of the scheme. Meanwhile, most lawmakers from depressed
parts of the state were passionately opposed.

Guess who had the numbers to outvote whom?

Both chambers rejected the rural lawmakers’ plea to depart from
a uniform $15 in favor of letting the rate vary by county or region
within the state. Behind this regional divide is a simple fact:
Affluent sections of Maryland can vote for $15 without much worry
that a large share of their job base will disappear. Poor counties
can’t.

Even if you set aside the greater prevalence of seasonal and
part-time work in the outlying parts of the state, a direct
job-vs.-job comparison shows why. In Columbia (average salary per
PayScale.com:
$63,327), jobs that pay less than $15 an hour
represent the low end of the employment curve, and many are paying
at $12 or $13 already, even for entry-level jobs.

In Cumberland ($39,800), a $15 minimum is likely to upend the
economics of hiring for positions such as sales associate ($9.16).
In mountain Maryland, even job categories requiring certification
in specialized medical skills often pay well below $15. That would
include certified nurse assistant and certified pharmacy
technician, both around $12.10 in Cumberland. As for hiking
restaurant, clinic or carwash prices by a few bucks to make up the
difference, that’s something that may run into more customer
resistance in Hagerstown (average home value …read more

Source: OP-EDS

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