The Maryland General Assembly on Monday approved raising the minimum wage to $10.10 by 2018, the latest in a series of state-level actions as President Obama pushes for a similar increase nationwide.

The legislation goes to Democratic Gov. Martin O'Malley, who strongly supports it. Obama praised the move.

"Maryland's important action is a reminder that many states, cities and counties — as well as a majority of the American people — are way ahead of Washington on this crucial issue," the president said in a statement.

Meanwhile, in Minnesota, leaders of the Democrat-led legislature outlined a deal to raise the minimum wage to $9.50 an hour in steps. Starting in 2018, the wage would automatically rise with inflation, unless the governor at the time suspends the increases. A vote on a bill could come Wednesday. Democratic Gov. Mark Dayton says he'll sign it.

The current national minimum wage is $7.25 an hour.

Obama and other Democrats say a wage hike is a way to address growing inequality. They hope to use it as a campaign issue vs. Republicans, who are using ObamaCare disapproval to hammer vulnerable Democratic senators.

But business groups and other critics say the wage hike will cost jobs. They point to a recent Congressional Budget Office study estimating that a $10.10 wage would cost about 500,000 jobs.

The CBO also said a wage hike plus ObamaCare's employer mandate would kill more jobs and reduce hours.

The latest IBD/TIPP Poll shows Americans support a $10.10 minimum wage by a decisive 60%-37%. But support plunges to slightly negative 48%-49% (45%-51% among independents) when told of the CBO job-loss report.

Nevertheless, state- and city-level action continues.

Maryland's minimum wage will increase from $7.25 an hour to $8 in January '15, $8.25 in July '15, $8.75 in July 2016, $9.25 in July '17 and $10.10 in July '18.

Connecticut last month approved a $10.10 minimum wage by 2017, from the current $8.70.

California's legislature agreed last year to hike the state minimum to $10 an hour by '16.

Union activists are filing papers for a San Francisco ballot initiative to lift the city minimum to $15. The local wage was raised by 19 cents to $10.74 in January.

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