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Business groups unveil latest effort to block minimum wage hike

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Business groups against Ballot Question 2, a proposed constitutional amendment to raise New Jersey's minimum wage, took to the Seaside Heights boardwalk this morning to announce the launching of a statewide campaign opposing the measure.

It's the latest attempt to rally opposition to the measure, which not only would increase minimum wage by $1, to $8.25, but also tie future increases to the consumer price index, which is of a particular concern to the business community.

Tom Bracken, president and CEO of the New Jersey Chamber of Commerce, knows business groups have an uphill fight – but it's one he insists is worth fighting until the Nov. 5 vote.

"Ballot Question 2 would have a chilling effect on economic growth, especially in the wake of superstorm Sandy," he said. "It would cause already cautious employers to cut jobs and reduce hours."

Bracken added that despite recently passed business incentives, companies thinking of relocating to the state might think twice "when they see the level of government intrusion into the private sector that this amendment represents."

Joe Olivo, a Moorestown business owner and chair of the National Federation of Independent Business New Jersey's leadership council, said that the hike would drive up the costs for employers and in turn, hurt the people the amendment is designed to help.

"The people who will suffer first and worst if Question 2 passes are the employees who need the jobs that we provide," Olivo said.

Seaside Park business owner Bobby Stewart, whose retro arcade on Funtown Pier was destroyed in the recent boardwalk fire, attempted to provide a firsthand account as to why the proposed hike would be bad for small businesses.

"We've had two bad hits this year," Stewart said. "We had Sandy, we had the fire. This amendment would be the third bad hit. It would just devastate us."

Meanwhile, those in support of raising the minimum wage are also stepping up their efforts as November approaches.

Gordon MacInnes, president of Trenton think tank New Jersey Policy Perspective, said that despite the claims of the chamber and the NFIB, history shows minimum wage increases do not lead to job losses or reduced opportunities for workers.

"The business lobby's arguments against giving New Jersey's low-wage workers a leg up with a modest increase in the minimum wage just aren't supported by facts or history," MacInnes said. "The sky won't fall, jobs won't be lost and the economy won't collapse if we treat workers who are struggling to get by in this high-cost state with respect."

Corinne Horowitz, a business representative from the New Jersey Main Street Alliance, agrees. She adds that local businesses stand to gain if people have more money in their pockets.

"Real small business owners across New Jersey support raising the minimum wage," Horowitz said. "Business owners who work shoulder-to-shoulder with their employees know them and care about them and they also know that $7.25 isn't enough to live on in New Jersey."

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