ANNAPOLIS, Md. (AP) -- Gov. Martin O'Malley on Tuesday night proposed raising Maryland's minimum wage to $10.10 an hour by 2016 and to index it to keep up with inflation.
O'Malley, a Democrat, told supporters during a rally in front of the Maryland State House that raising the wage from $7.25 an hour would benefit the economy, not hurt it as critics of increasing the minimum wage say.
"Look, this is not some fanciful tale," O'Malley said. "The more workers are able to earn, the more customers businesses have. That's what drives the economy."
The governor has made the increase a priority of his legislative agenda this session, the last of his final term. O'Malley said the more workers earn, the better taxpayers they become. Conversely, workers making a low wage may end up costing taxpayers money by using programs such as Medicaid, he said.
"How much sense does it make for taxpayers to subsidize Medicaid so that some employers can pay minimum wage? That doesn't make any sense," O'Malley said.
Del. Ron George, an Anne Arundel County Republican, said the increase would mean fewer jobs and fewer hours.
"It's a job killer," George said. "Minimum jobs is what it should be called."
Twenty-one states currently have a higher minimum wage than Maryland. The District of Columbia approved a minimum wage hike last year to $11.50 an hour by 2016.
Last year, a measure to raise Maryland's minimum wage to $10 an hour by 2015 died in a Senate Committee. This year, however, O'Malley has made the increase a priority. Montgomery and Prince George's counties approved raising the minimum wages in those jurisdictions last year to $11.50 by 2017.