Maryland Democrat Isiah Leggett reaffirmed his decision to veto the $15 minimum wage Friday while expressing concern over the findings of a related study.
Leggett currently serves as the executive of Montgomery County. He used his position to veto a proposal Jan. 23 that would have increased the minimum wage in the county to $15 an hour. He expressed concern over how the policy would impact issues like small businesses and youth unemployment. His decision quickly drew national headlines.
Leggett is now expressing concerns over the findings of a recent study he commissioned to review the policy. The study was returned to the researchers so they can address the concerns. Leggett notes the revised study will be able to provide the information local lawmakers need to draft a more sensible bill.
“I vetoed the earlier version of Bill 12-16 because it would place the County at a competitive disadvantage, and I had concerns,” Leggett said in a statement provided to InsideSources. “To date, those concerns have not been adequately resolved. This is why I called for a study to examine these issues in order to make a better-informed decision.”
Public Financial Management (PFM) was commissioned to conduct the independent study. It found in its report July 31 that the increased minimum wage would cause a severe loss in jobs across the county. The county would lose an estimated 47,000 jobs by 2022. Total income is estimated to drop by $396.5 million over that time.
“Upon receiving an initial report of the study, I had some concerns about the methodology and have returned the study for revision,” Leggett said. “I expect to have the final version ready for a briefing this fall for the Montgomery County Council.”
Democrats and progressives typically support the $15 minimum wage as a way to address poverty. They argue the policy will help low wage workers with few economic consequences. Critics contest it could force employers to increase prices or reduce employment opportunities to overcome the added cost of labor.
“We must realize that it would put our County in a different position compared to the few jurisdictions that have already passed a $15-minimum wage,” Leggett said. “Unlike Seattle or New York City, we are not a ‘destination city’ that draws great numbers of business travelers or tourists that will be able to afford higher costs for short-term visits. Our residents will essentially shoulder the bulk of the cost.”
Seattle became the first place in the entire country to pass the increase June 2014. The University of Washington recently released a city council commissioned report June 26 that found the policy is causing a significant reduction in jobs and total hours worked. The report was hit with counter studies which found more positive results.
The Fight for $15 movement has been at the forefront of the minimum wage debate since it started in 2012. The movement has since seen dozens of victories in cities and states across the country. But critics argue the movement is beginning to falter as their key policy faces increased scrutiny.
The Fight for $15 did not respond to a request for comment by InsideSources.