By Pat Warren

ANNAPOLIS, Md. (WJZ) — Maryland officially joins the short list of states that have recently approved a hike in the minimum wage.

Political reporter Pat Warren reports the bill signed into law Monday caught the attention of the White House.

A slow starter at best when introduced in previous sessions, Monday, Governor Martin O’Malley gave workers a raise.

“Building an economy from the middle out, the middle up,” he said.

U.S. Labor Secretary Tom Perez–a former member of the O’Malley cabinet–threw the president’s praise behind the raise.

“President Obama is so grateful for the leadership up here in Maryland, that’s why I wanted to come on behalf of the president to say thank you very much because too many people are suffering, here in Maryland and across the country. It’s just unconscionable that people can work 40 and 50 hours a week and live in poverty,” Perez said.

Marylanders will get their first bump on Jan. 1, from $7.25 to $8 an hour with raises each year after to $8.25, $8.75, $9.25 and on July 1, 2018, achieve the goal of $10.10 an hour.

Supporters say it can’t get here fast enough.

“I really think $10.10 should start today, not build up,” said Cynthia Murray, Wal-Mart Associates. “To me, they need to start the $10.10 today because our people need it here.”

“They’re borrowing from Peter to pay Paul, to use an old expression, and quite often they can’t find Paul to borrow from,” said Rev. Loretta Taylor-Boyd, Communities United.

The wage increase was the priority of this final year of the O’Malley administration.

“The North Star of every decision we have made has been this question: does it strengthen Maryland’s middle class? Does it lift people out of poverty? Does it make opportunity something that is available to all?” O’Malley said.

A recent Pew Research Center survey found 73 percent of Americans in favor of an increase in the minimum wage.

Opponents of the raise argue that it will have a negative impact on local businesses.

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