JT Exclusive: Pugh Veto Would Kill Minimum Wage Bill

Mayor Catherine Pugh (File photo)

If Baltimore Mayor Catherine Pugh chooses to veto a bill that would raise the city’s minimum wage to $15 per hour, the City Council will not have the votes to override the veto.

Since the council voted overwhelmingly on Monday in favor of the bill, Pugh has remained mum on whether she plans to sign it.

But if Pugh chooses to veto the measure, which the council passed by an 11-3 margin, Councilman Edward Reisinger (D-District 10) told the JT he has vowed to flip his position in favor of the mayor. While the vote was nearly veto-proof (District 2 Councilman Brandon Scott, a supporter, was out of town for it), Reisinger’s support of a mayoral veto would effectively kill the bill, because votes from 12 of the 15 council members would be needed to override Pugh’s veto.

Reisinger would join fellow council members Eric Costello (D-District 11), Isaac “Yitzy” Schleifer (D-District 5) and Leon F. Pinkett III (D-District 7) in opposing the bill, providing the mayor enough votes to uphold her veto.

Reisinger, who voted in favor of the legislation, said of Pugh, “I want to give her some consideration. I made a commitment and honor to vote for the bill on the second and third reader, but the veto vote is a different issue.”

During her mayoral campaign, Pugh pledged in an American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations (AFL-CIO) questionnaire to adopt a $15 minimum wage if a bill reached her desk.

“The bill that passed the Council is more than fair to the concerns of the business community,” said Ernie Grecco, president of the Baltimore Metro Council AFL-CIO. “And more than 90 percent of voters in the city support the $15 wage.”

Reisinger said he was unaware of the financial strain he felt the bill would put on city taxpayers, citing a report released by the Department of Finance earlier this month. The report concluded that the bill would cost taxpayers $115 million over the next four years because of higher wages for city workers. It also warned that it could cost the city hundreds of jobs.

A well-connected source with knowledge of the situation, speaking on the condition of anonymity, said council President Bernard C. “Jack” Young and Councilman Robert Stokes (D-District 12) also would not oppose the mayor’s veto. The source added that it’s likely council Vice President and Councilwoman Sharon Green Middleton (D-District 6) would not vote against the mayor. Prior to confirming with Reisinger, the source told the JT he was going to support the veto.

Calls and emails to the offices of Stokes, Young and Middleton seeking comment were not returned. All three voted in favor of the bill at both the preliminary hearing on March 6 and Monday’s meeting.

When Mary Pat Clarke (D-District 14), the bill’s lead sponsor, reintroduced the legislation in February, she and Young hoped to get unanimous support from the council.

Pugh, who has yet to say whether she plans to sign or veto the legislation, is expected to make a decision “within the next few days,” her spokesman, Anthony McCarthy, said on Monday.

Currently, the minimum wage in Maryland is $8.75 and scheduled to rise to $10.10 by July 2018. Under the bill, sponsored by Clarke, Baltimore’s wage would rise with the state’s for the next two years, but then continue to increase until it reaches the $15 mark.

The bill calls for low-wage employees 21 and older at businesses with more than 50 employees to earn $15 by 2022. Companies with 50 or fewer employees would have until 2026 to implement the increase, which calls for hourly wages of the lowest-paid workers to rise 60 cents annually to reach the wage hike.

In addition, council members adopted an amendment by Pugh last week that would exempt for six months companies that are using city-approved programs to train workers.

This story has been updated.


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