Downtown Partnership president Kirby Fowler today announced his group supports a state bill to increase the minimum wage to $15 per hour by 2023.

Employees and working families need a strong minimum wage to live & stabilize their communities – which is why I just advised our state legislators of Downtown
Partnership’s support for the proposed statewide $15 minimum wage increase.

— Kirby Fowler (@downtownkirby) February 22, 2018

When the Baltimore City Council attempted to raise the minimum wage in Baltimore to $15 last year, Fowler testified during a hearing that a statewide effort would be better than going it alone. He reiterated that point in a conversation with Baltimore Fishbowl this afternoon.

“Anybody in the job-creation field recognizes that we’re competing with the adjacent counties, whether we like that or not,” he said.

Mayor Catherine Pugh ultimately vetoed that bill after it was passed by the council.

A majority of Downtown Partnership’s membership, comprised of white-collar professionals and owners of other businesses in the city’s central business district, have supported raising the minimum wage to $15 across Maryland, he said.

And though it may be harder for smaller retailers to adjust, Fowler said the investment banks, law offices and other professional firms would largely be unaffected since many of their employees are already earning well above $15 an hour.

“If this means these firms will pay people more to work in the mail room, that’s all for the better,” he said.

Fowler said that he hopes legislators consider easing things like licensing fees to help smaller businesses ease into the change.

Downtown Partnership itself would be affected by such a wage increase. In addition to marketing, event promotion and other services, the group employs low-wage workers as guides and Clean Sweep Ambassadors to keep sidewalks and parks clean.

But Fowler said the organization is already weighing a salary increase for those jobs, and it may increase wages to the $15 mark before the state law would, if passed.

“We realized that we have to perhaps pay a little more to attract and retain people for these very difficult jobs,” he said.

With the support of Mayor Pugh, the city council passed a resolution earlier this month in support of the state bill. The legislation is scheduled for a hearing in the House Economic Matters committee on Feb. 27, and the version of the bill cross-filed in the Maryland State Senate is scheduled for March 8 hearing before the Senate Finance Committee.

Brandon Weigel is the managing editor of Baltimore Fishbowl. A graduate of the University of Maryland, he has been published in The Washington Post, The Sun, Baltimore Magazine, Urbanite, The Baltimore...