New Jersey certified public accountants agree that the minimum wage in the state should be raised. But not to $15 an hour.

According to a study by the New Jersey Society of CPAs, 56 percent of more than 1,200 surveyed support raising the state's minimum wage from the current $8.60 an hour to $8.85  starting Jan. 1.

But if the minimum rage raises to $15 an hour, 63 percent of those surveyed said it would hurt the state's economy.

Only 32 percent were more likely to support the $15 hike if it included exemptions for seasonal workers, teenagers and others, said industry group CEO and Executive Director Ralph Albert Thomas.

Many respondents said raising the minimum wage could hurt the economy in what is called the elevation effect. Thomas said if a person currently makes $15 an hour and then the minimum wage is raised to $15 an hour, they're going to expect their wage to increase as well.

Depending on the timing of the increase, there's concern about how the business community is going to react. Thomas said it's possible that Jersey businesses may cut hours in order to support the minimum wage increase. There's also concern that some businesses will turn to automation.

Jersey businesses may even decided to leave the state, especially small businesses, said Thomas.

The survey also found that some respondents believed the minimum wage should increase based on the cost of living in various New Jersey communities. The problem is how to implement that. Thomas said there's already concern that New Jersey's tax structure is already complex enough.

Opponents of the minimum wage hike say lawmakers need to be reminded that minimum wage is for entry-level positions and not meant to be a living wage to support a family. But advocates say far too many people have little choice but accept minimum wage to support themselves and their families.

Thomas said respondents would like to see a pairing of an increase in minimum wage with some incentives for workforce development.

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