Friday Five | April 7, 2023

A recap of this week’s top-five news items and resources from the intersection of business and government.

1. General Assembly votes to accelerate $15 minimum wage to Jan. 1

Maryland’s minimum hourly wage will be $15 beginning Jan. 1 under a bill from Governor Wes Moore that passed in the General Assembly on Tuesday.

The pay hike that lawmakers approved is less ambitious than what Moore sought, but the governor has maintained an upbeat tone as the bill worked its way through the legislature. He is scheduled to begin signing bills into law on Tuesday of next week.

State lawmakers, though, removed the link to the Consumer Price Index and delayed the minimum wage increase by a few months. Maryland’s minimum wage for businesses with 15 or more employees is $13.25 per hour, and it’s $12.80 for those with fewer than 15 workers, according to the Department of Legislative Services.

Under the current law, the minimum wage would have hit $15 per hour on Jan. 1, 2025 for large businesses, and on July 1, 2026 for small businesses.

Read the full story here.

2. Cannabis legalization plan passes Maryland Senate committee; amended bill heads toward final steps

Everybody loves a growing business community. It means more jobs, more income – and more taxes.

When the new governor and comptroller spoke to the Maryland Chamber of Commerce on Feb. 28, they embraced the business community. Said Gov. Wes Moore, who had spent some time as an investment banker: “When Maryland’s businesses are strong, Maryland’s communities are strong.”

However, some of the state’s policies that Moore is backing, including the already enacted Family and Medical Leave Insurance program and proposed legislation regarding electric vehicles and trucks, will drive up the cost of doing business – all at a time when taxpayers are leaving the state, leading to a substantial loss in taxable income.

Read the full Maryland Reporter story here.

3. Guinness to end manufacturing in Maryland as plant lays off around 100 workers

Natty Boh said goodbye to Maryland years ago. Now production of Guinness’ Baltimore Blonde is also leaving the state.

Diageo North America, Inc., the parent company for Guinness, filed notice that it will lay off 108 workers and shut down its plant in Relay in a work adjustment and retraining log submitted with the state. However, a spokeswoman for Guinness said around 97 roles would be impacted.

The news comes as Guinness prepares to open a Guinness Open Gate Brewery in Chicago, its second modern outpost in the United States. (Its Maryland plant was the first in the U.S. in more than 60 years.)

“After careful consideration and analysis of our supply footprint, we have made the difficult decision to permanently close our manufacturing facility in Relay, Maryland,” Diageo said in its statement. “In order to ensure long term sustainable growth for Diageo, we are optimizing our existing operations across North America to meet evolving consumer preferences.”

Read the full story here.

4. Job openings tumbled below 10 million in February for the first time in nearly two years

Job openings fell below 10 million in February for the first time in nearly two years, in a sign that the Federal Reserve’s efforts to slow the labor market may be having some impact.

Available positions totaled 9.93 million, a drop of 632,000 from January’s downwardly revised number, the Labor Department reported Tuesday in its monthly Job Openings and Labor Turnover Survey. Wall Street had been looking for 10.4 million, according to FactSet.

Professional and business services saw a slide of 278,000 job openings on the month, while trade, transportation and utilities decreased 210,000. Accommodation and food services, an important sector to gauge consumer demand, dropped 125,000.

On the positive side, there were 129,000 new construction jobs available, though that was the only category that saw a noticeable bump.

Read the full story here.

5. Micromanaging the economy: White House eager to see price controls return

The Biden administration recently announced a slew of regulatory efforts which they claim will combat “junk fees” charged to consumers. Ultimately, these actions are just government price-setting by a different name. And the results will be just as bad as they have always proven to be.

What is a junk fee? That is a good question. According to the administration, it is “any unnecessary or hidden fees from banks, hotels and other service providers.” What constitutes unnecessary you might ask? Well, anything that the White House decides it simply don’t like.

In response to inflation, President Nixon had issued price and wage controls in 1971 and again in 1973. The results were disastrous and deeply unpopular.

While the administration is quick to point out which fees are illegitimate for businesses, it is at the same time seemingly oblivious to the fees which it charges to taxpaying Americans. Can we expect President Biden to proclaim IRS late filing fees, expedited passport and visa processing fees, or the bevy of other fees the government charges, as junk fees? It’s not likely.

Read the full story here.

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