ANNAPOLIS, Md. - Governor O'Malley has thrown his support behind a proposal to raise the minimum wage.
Right now minimum wage in Maryland is $7.25 an hour. The governor said he supports a proposal to increase that to $10.10 an hour.
At a rally in Annapolis Tuesday night, he told the crowd that raising the minimum wage is the best way to grow the middle class in Maryland.
"There's some people that think 'Well in good times we can afford a middle class.' Poppycock. You grow your middle class, you strengthen your middle class in order to strengthen your economy," the governor said.
The proposal would raise a full year's salary from about $15,000 to nearly $21,000.
Tiffany Beriod works full time at a Walmart in Anne Arundel County -- and she already makes just over $10.00 an hour.
But she still needs to use the state's free health insurance program for herself and her two daughters.
"Walmart offers insurance, however I can't afford the insurance they offer because my pay is still low, being as I still have to pay the basic needs for me and my children," Beriod said.
Opponents of the minimum wage increase fear losing jobs to neighboring states with lower minimums.
"It actually hurts the very people that it's trying to help," said Del. Neil Parrott, a Republican who represents Washington County.
Del. Parrott and other Republicans are proposing an alternative plan that would allow each county to set its own minimum wage.
"A lot of them, like Washington County, can't afford to do it," he said. "We know those jobs are leaving. Places like Montgomery County, Prince George's County, maybe they can do it. This bill, what it would do, those counties that want to raise the minimum wage, go ahead let them raise it and we'll enforce it at the state level."
The governor's proposal would also increase the minimum wage for workers who get tips, such as waiters and waitresses.
Right now employers are allowed to pay them 50 percent of the current minimum wage; that would go up to 70 percent.
Plus -- future minimum wage increases would happen automatically if the bill passes, because they would be tied to inflation.