Officials seek a regional minimum wage - DC News FOX 5 DC WTTG

Officials seek a regional minimum wage

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Elected officials in Maryland and D.C. have announced a plan to establish a regional minimum wage for the city and its nearby suburbs.

Because Virginia is a "Dillon Rule" state, cities and counties in Virginia cannot join into the effort without specific authorization from the state legislature.

In the Washington, D.C. area, most people make more than the federal or local minimum wage of $7.25 or $8.25 an hour. But when families do live at the margin, former teacher Marc Elrich saw the results. "I saw hungry kids come to school every day," recalls Elrich. "I saw kids who didn't eat between Friday's school lunch and Monday morning's school breakfast."

Elrich is now a Councilman in Montgomery County. He and like-minded legislators from D.C. and from Prince George's County are proposing a regional minimum wage. Under the plan, most workers would have to be paid at least $8.25 an hour next year, $9.75 an hour in 2015, and $11.50 an hour in 2016.

Even the increased minimums, according to these Democratic politicians, yield barely enough money to live on.

"According to a study conducted by the Maryland Community Action Partnership, a family of two needs about $50,000 a year to cover the costs of living in Prince George's County," declared Andrea Harrison, the Chairman of the Prince George's County Council. "So, what we're doing is helping struggling residents who are living in one of the most expensive counties and regions in the nation."

How would businesses cope with a sharply increased minimum wages in DC and nearby Maryland counties? Jianguo Shang, who owns an import store, says he might have to trim the hours of some of his employees. But Gina Chersevani, who runs a small bar in D.C., has no problem with the increased minimum wage. "I think it should be $11.50 an hour now," said Chersevani. "People can't afford to live. I mean, they work 40 hours a week, 50 hours a week, and still can't make their rent."

Under Virginia law, cities and counties do not have the authority to establish a local minimum wage. For that reason, Jim Dinegar, president of the Greater Washington Board of Trade thinks it's "folly" for DC and Maryland to attempt establishment of a regional minimum wage.

Prospects for passing a regional minimum wage bill appear to be very good among members of the Prince George's County Council and the D.C. Council.

In Montgomery County, so far three of the nine members have committed to support the bill.

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