A new poll finds almost half of all small business owners in New Jersey believe the state’s $15 an hour minimum wage law will negatively impact them.

A Fairleigh Dickinson University poll of 424 small business owners with 50 or fewer employees, found about 50% believe implementation of the minimum wage law will have no impact on them, but 45% said the higher wage will hurt their bottom line.

Rich Higginson, the FDU poll director of market research, said 36% of companies with only a handful of employees said the new minimum wage would have a negative impact on them, but “when you move up to companies that have 21 or more employees, that number jumps up to 62%”.

He said many company bosses fear there will also be a negative domino effect as the minimum wage increases over the next four years.

“They’re saying the guy that’s currently making $10 or $11 or $12 is going to want an increase in salary commensurate to the increase in minimum wage," he said.

As the minimum wage goes up to $11 an hour this January, and then rises a dollar an hour every year until 2024, “people that are making higher than minimum wage are also going to anticipate they are going to get a salary increase," he said.

Higginson said small business owners believe that to stay in business with the higher salaries that they will have to pay, “they all feel they are going to have to pass the additional costs onto the consumer, with higher prices of goods, or not have as many people working the hours that they do.”

The poll also asked small business owners about the business climate.

“Overall, 62% of the folks we talked to said that the business environment right now is worse today than it was two years ago," he said.

The poll finds 23% of respondents said the small-business environment in the state has not changed, and 16% said it has improved.

“There will be repercussions from this law for a while”, he said. “I think it will be felt by everybody in New Jersey.”

The poll was conducted in conjunction with the Rothman Institute of Innovation and Entrepreneurship at FDU.

Small business owners were polled via an online survey between May and August.

You can contact reporter David Matthau at David.Matthau@townsquaremedia.com.

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