True to his reputation, former Maryland Sen. Larry Young, host of the Larry Young Morning Show on WOLB 1010 AM, brought the most pressing issues to the state’s democratic gubernatorial candidates in a debate just over a week before the primary election on June 24.
During the 90-minute live debate on June 4, Young had the candidates for governor—Lt. Gov. Anthony Brown, Attorney General Doug Gansler, and Delegate Heather Mizeur—air their views and positions on a range of issues including increasing the minimum wage, the expansion of universal pre-Kindergarten, affordable health care and the underfunding of Maryland’s Historically Black Colleges and Universities.
The candidates opening statements were in line with their messages from previous debates. Gansler came out of the gate attacking the O’Malley-Brown Administration, with an emphasis on the increase in taxes in the state over the last eight years. He stayed in this mode throughout the debate, while Brown was called on to defend those positions and Mizeur remained neutral, discussing her platform.
Young noted that the minimum wage increase from $7.25 to $10.10 does not go into effect until 2018, and asked what the candidates could do about the timeliness of the bill if elected. Brown said a bill on the table calls for the minimum wage to be phased in within two years, and includes an index on the cost of living.
“Right now there are 455,000 Marylanders making less than the minimum wage,” Brown said. “When we increase the minimum wage we are going to give a raise to half a million Marylanders. It’s going to boost a half a billion dollars in our economy and create several thousand jobs.”
Mizeur said, “I have a plan to make sure our minimum wage turns into a living wage of $16.20 an hour by 2022. That would take someone’s paycheck right now [that] is only making $270 dollars a week and make it $668 dollars a week. We will address the tip wage worker problem. No one should be making $3.63 an hour and hoping and praying their tips will bring them up to make the difference.”
Gansler agreed that individuals working 40 hours a week should not be earning wages that put them below the poverty line. He mentioned the importance of benefits, including less employee turnover and higher productivity.
“The reality is it doesn’t matter what the minimum wage is if you don’t have jobs,” Gansler said. “Forty-six percent of adults in Baltimore City are out of work. We lose companies and business every year.”
The debate next turned to low voter turnout across the state; the general consensus was that negative campaign ads could be a factor swaying people from the polls.
On the topic of taxes, Gansler explained that the fundamental difference between him and Brown was the enactment of 40 taxes over the last eight years.
“We cannot afford another eight years of the O’Malley-Brown Administration mortgaging the future of our state on the backs of 40 more taxes and more casino gambling at the expense of bringing life science companies here,” Gansler said.
Brown said he has a plan for comprehensive tax reform and reiterated that the taxes levied have benefitted Maryland.
“We made tough choices and because of those tough choices we are in a position to invest in a $1.1 billion dollar school construction program in Baltimore City,” Brown emphasized. “It doesn’t happen without revenue.”
“If we make [businesses] pay their fair share we can generate … new revenue, that I will dedicate entirely to small business tax cuts,” Mizeur said.
The closing issue was the underfunding of HBCUs and the continuing dispute between HBCUs and the state of Maryland. Each candidate agreed that HBCUs have been treated unfairly and said that in 2014 there should not be a racial parity problem in higher education.
Brown said the issue should not be dealt with in court, and has a plan for funding HBCUs. Gansler said he would ensure duplication of Master’s programs between HBCUs and other schools no longer occurs. Mizeur said her universal pre-K plan would level the playing field.