Ben Jealous’ Economic Proposal
By Robert Velazquez
Silver Spring, MD – Ben Jealous hosted a round table discussion about Maryland’s stagnant economy. Jealous has released a series of statements including his economic proposal titled “Make It In Maryland”. The proposal outlines how Maryland’s economy is lagging behind Pennsylvania, Delaware and Virginia. The major piece of the Jealous economic plan is to invest upfront into low wage workers across the state.
Under Governor Hogan, a new minimum wage effective July 2018, raises the Maryland minimum wage to $10.10/hour but does not address tipped wage workers who work for a base wage of $3.63/hour. Jealous is proposing a gradual increase of minimum wage across the state of Maryland to $15.00/hour. The plan directly creates an increase in the wages of tipped workers from $3.63/hour to the proposed $15.00/hour minimum. The proposal looks to raise the quality of life of 573,000 workers across the state by 2023.
The proposal looks at case studies including Seattle, San Francisco, and New York. In those environments, critics argue that such a dramatic increase in wage would be to the detriment of the employer causing the unemployment rate to rise. Alternatively, San Francisco has remained at the relatively low unemployment rate of 3.0%. Seattle specifically looked into the job growth numbers of the restaurant sector and it showed that job creation within that industry had not slowed under a $15.00 minimum wage.
Jealous includes demographics to show which workers would be most affected by such a drastic economic proposal. 54.4% of affected workers are women, going on to say 1 in 4 women in Maryland would experience a raise in quality of life. Almost one-third affected are parents which would give a potential $4,600 increase in annual income by 2023. 92,000 citizens are currently living below the federal poverty line, this proposal not only offers to raise the quality of life for these individuals but also offers to boost the Maryland economy by doing so.
The proposal includes paystub requirements to better protect workers from corporate crimes like wage theft. As well as, public education about wage complaints to give workers a better understanding of their rights as workers.
Aside from increasing wages for the lowest earning workers of Maryland, Jealous goes on to propose an Office of Technology Transfer which would be charged with coordinating with Maryland’s university systems, capital investment firms and baking institutions to build a more robust and thriving economy within the state. Building from within the already thriving systems of Johns Hopkins and University of Maryland, the state can stand to build in transportation, research and infrastructure sectors without giving billions of dollars in tax incentives to corporations like Amazon.
Investing into Maryland technologies would give opportunity to homegrown entrepreneurs to stay in the Maryland area instead of heading to states like California or Massachusetts. The baseline idea, instead of investing billions into tech giants like Amazon or Google, giving the opportunity and funding to Maryland businesses and technologies to create an economic ecosystem that rivals that of Boston or Palo Alto.
Jealous describes a plan for public job expansion; working with existing organizations to increase access to public sector jobs, Jealous’ potential administration would leverage its public investments into healthcare, education, transportation and infrastructure to find a pathway from public sector positions to private employment opportunities. Using his commitment to end the lead paint crisis and revival of the Baltimore Red Line Light rail as jumping off points for the program and also offering an expansion of the Port of Baltimore.
The Port of Baltimore is the largest deep-water port capable of receiving large cargo ships coming in from the newly expanded Panama Canal. 2017 marked the busiest year for the Port since 1979. Jealous claims his administration will invest in strategic infrastructure revitalization to insure years of economic prosperity for the Port. That infrastructure investment will be shared by CSX, the State of Maryland and the federal government.
He also gives a firm commitment to reviving rural Maryland areas. The plan includes a strong support for clean wind and solar energy to continue protecting Maryland’s Chesapeake Bay and rural agricultural communities to be able to continue agricultural production well into the 21st century. His plan also includes taking advantage of emerging technological applications such as, automation and microclimate analysis among other techniques to be increase productivity and maintain a competitive edge in the global economy. Lastly, he makes a commitment to bring broadband connectivity to previously unconnected areas. Allowing community schools and individuals to have access to an expanding Maryland and global community.
His final plan is a commitment to infrastructure repair and expansion to give Marylanders a 21st century transportation plan. The vision of a Maryland connected through a series of high-speed trains, light rails and revised bus systems are a priority for a Jealous administration. The plan hopes to give Marylanders from different parts of the state access to economic opportunities without having to sacrifice hours of personal time for commuting time.
While the Jealous plan checks all the boxes on a more prosperous future for Maryland, a large question remains: where is this funding going to come from? Is it based on the economic stimulus of adding almost $2 billion into the Maryland economy by raising minimum wage by 2023? Does a large portion come from the legalization and taxation of the cannabis industry as Jealous has previously proposed? If all cannabis related infractions are forgiven does the Maryland Department of Corrections suddenly free up funding and resources? Does a massive investment into tech and infrastructure take the shape of tax breaks or investments from existing budgets?
Regardless of the source of funding, the Jealous economic proposal draws a distinct line in the sand. He is not investing into corporations, he is investing into workers, industry and infrastructure in Maryland. The proposal is a ground-up approach to breathing life into the stagnant economic state Maryland currently faces. The plan seems to be an inclusive growth approach with specific strategies tailored to bring opportunity and a high quality of life across to all citizens of Maryland.
Photo Credit, Gage Skidmore