The Hill By Vicki Needham –

April 4, 2013:

A majority of small businesses say the healthcare law is their biggest concern, finally eclipsing their long-held worry over economic uncertainty.

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s latest quarterly small-business survey finds that 77 percent say the Affordable Care Act will make coverage for their employees more expensive, while 71 percent say it will be harder to hire more employees under the law.

Of those surveyed, 79 of small businesses believe the economy is on the wrong track.

“While the general trends of the economy appear to be improving, a closer look shows workforce participation still falling and full-time employment still historically low,” said Dr. Martin Regalia, the Chamber’s chief economist said on Thursday.

About one-third of small businesses say, in response to the healthcare law, they plan to cut back hours to reduce the number of full-time employees to avoid qualifying for the employer mandate.

In addition, 32 percent of small businesses plan to reduce hiring because of the mandate. That would likely affect many firms with right around 50 employees.

“In today’s economy, we need policies that will breed confidence and encourage small businesses to expand, not cut back staff and employees’ hours. With the right policies in place, small-business owners’ optimism and confidence in the economy will improve,” Regalia said.

Small businesses are looking to Congress to lead on policies like increased energy production, comprehensive tax reform, removing government barriers and immigration reform.

Eight out of 10 small businesses support comprehensive tax reform and 52 percent said the tax code should be simplified.

A clear majority (84 percent) says that regulations, restrictions and taxes negatively effect their ability to do business.

Two-thirds of respondents said that immigration reform would increase the nation’s global competitiveness and help strengthen the economy.

Amid debate over the nation’s inflated debt levels, 78 percent of small businesses said they view the debt and deficit as a threat to the success of their business.

They also squarely put the onus on Senate Democrats for failing to bolster economic growth.

The survey showed that 86 percent of small firms disapprove of Senate Democrats compared with 46 percent who disapprove of the House Republican majority is doing.

The survey was conducted online from March 14-26 of more than 1,300 small-business executives.