Chamber poll: Most business owners back Christie re-election

TRENTON – Two out of three N.J. business owners will – or probably will – vote for Gov. Chris Christie.

That is one of the findings of a new poll released by the N.J. Chamber of Commerce today.

In addition, 71 percent of those surveyed oppose the minimum wage hike on November’s ballot because of the inclusion of the annual cost of living increase.

According to the ParenteBeard-Chamber survey, 66 percent of respondents say Christie is their choice regardless of who the Democratic opponent is. But only 9 percent of respondents had the same sentiment about their candidate, who presumably is Sen. Barbara Buno.

Regarding the minimum wage hike, seven in 10 said they would prefer a specific increase and have it phased in over three years.

Gov. Christie, in vetoing a minimum wage hike bill earlier, offered such an alternative: Hiking the minimum wage, phasing it in, and eliminating the automatic increases.

But the Democratic-controlled Legislature vowed they would pursue a constitutional amendment if the bill was vetoed, and this year voters will have their say.

“An annual increase based on the consumer price index is a bad idea for everyone. It makes it difficult for businesses to plan year to year and it could lead to raises in years when the economy is suffering,” said Chamber President Thomas Bracken in a release.

On other issues surveyed:

*Fifty-two percent said the state’s economy will fare moderately or much better over the next 12 months, compared to 45.5 percent who felt that way in the immediate aftermath of Superstorm Sandy.

*Seventy-seven percent feel it will take at least two years for the Shore to fully recover from the storm.

*Regarding jobs, 74.5 percent said they expect employment in their industries to remain stable or grow over the next 12 months.

The New Jersey Chamber of Commerce survey of 107 business owners and executives was conducted between April 2 and May 3.

Going forward

Looking at the results and what they portend, Bracken said the minimum wage hike will have a ripple effect on businesses and the economy.

Assuming that voters will approve it, it will become an annual fixed cost that will be deal with in one or more ways: Companies will hire fewer people, reduce head count, or pass the cost on to customers by increasing prices, Bracken explained.

“It is the kiss of death,’’ he said.  Not only will companies have to pay more to their lower-wage workers, but there will be pressure to pay more to the middle and upper-level employees, he warned.

“We’re not opposed to a minimum wage increase,’’ he said.  “We’re opposed to how it’s being done. It’s going to be mandated and irreversible and in the Constitution, which is an absolutely horrible place to put something like that that should be legislated.”

Chamber poll: Most business owners back Christie re-election