Good jobs and a productive economy are at the heart of almost all the good things that we want for our families and communities. Good jobs support strong families. On the other hand, the lack of good jobs – as a result of unemployment or underemployment – causes great stress on families while depriving them of the essentials of daily life.
What can be done? To a great extent, jobs and economic development are dependent upon private enterprise and public policies that are national in scope. New technologies are a vital part of the landscape, and so are “green jobs” that improve our environment and economy. At the same time, states can do more than they now do, both on their own and in partnership with businesses and other levels of government.
Several principles should guide our efforts in Maryland and Baltimore County. We must assure an environment in which the private sector can grow and create new jobs. We must nurture what a report by The Abell Foundation calls the “entrepreneurial ecosystem,” searching out innovators and investors, and creating a healthy business climate. For us to gain and keep a competitive edge, we must work closely with business leaders and provide stable and reasonable regulatory policies, a fair tax structure, excellent transportation and other infrastructure, and a diverse, well-trained workforce.
Maryland has many vibrant private and public sectors and advantages to build on. Still, for the strength of our community and accelerated job growth, our public schools, as good as they are, must be better. We should aspire to a public school system that is a model throughout the country. Students must be taught the higher-order thinking skills required in today’s higher-tech economy. Career and technology programs must be tailored to fit the needs of Maryland employers.
Our colleges and universities also are a source of great strength, both to lead in the research that will grow jobs and to prepare students to fill the jobs. For example, our District’s own Stevenson University is blazing a bright path in training a new generation of workers who will be ready to adapt as jobs and workplaces change.
Another foundation for job growth is regional cooperation. This applies not just to workforce development and infrastructure but to the recreational and cultural amenities that heavily influence company decisions about location.
While job growth is crucial, we must not stop there. We must also assure that jobs provide decent wages and benefits. I support an increase in the minimum wage, and indexing it to inflation. Attempts in Congress to raise the minimum wage are stalled, but about 20 states have higher minimum wages than Maryland. In buying power, the minimum wage is much lower than it was in the 1960’s. A nonpartisan institute estimates that over 530,000 Maryland workers will benefit from raising the minimum wage to about $10 per hour. Research shows that raising the minimum wage has little if any adverse impact on employment.
Moreover, good jobs must be equally accessible to all. We must continue to remove barriers that hamper women, minorities and others experiencing discrimination from gaining good jobs and earning job promotions.