Business owners gather to boost Schwarzenegger |

Business owners gather to boost Schwarzenegger

William Ferchland

Agreeing tax increases would harm aspects of South Lake Tahoe commerce, a band of business owners and politicians gathered to pledge support for Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger’s re-election campaign.

The event was designed to highlight alleged shortfalls in the campaign promises of Democrat challenger Phil Angelides, painted as a candidate who would quickly raise taxes if elected Nov. 7.

Evan Williams, owner of two restaurants in South Lake Tahoe, including Cantina where the Thursday event was held, said he considered moving out of state when Gov. Gray Davis was in office, creating what Williams deemed a hostile business climate. Evans is a Republican supporter.

Worker compensation rates were burdensome during Davis’ reign, said Williams. While workers’ compensation was revamped under Schwarzenegger, Williams said it would be difficult to conduct business in South Lake Tahoe if Angelides is elected and raises taxes.

“We are just now getting out of the hole Gray Davis dug for us. Now Phil Angelides wants to throw us back in,” Williams said.

“Phil Angelides would kill jobs and prosperity with his tax hikes.”

The Schwarzenegger campaign states Angelides would raise $18 billion in taxes on the wealthy and big businesses. Angelides’ camp refuted the claims.

“That is nothing more than bogus charges from the Schwarzenegger campaign,” said Angelides spokesman Nick Papas. “Phil Angelides has a plan to cut taxes for small business. Angelides has a plan to cut taxes for hard-working middle-class families.”

South Lake Tahoe City Councilwoman Kathay Lovell cited the backlash of the Business Improvement District tax aimed to create a funding mechanism to promote tourism. A lawsuit ensued, but the BID was dropped before it got any traction.

“We heard a very loud from our business community they couldn’t take any more tax increases,” Lovell said.

Potential business owners would be swayed not to come to South Lake Tahoe if taxes rise, further threatening the economic vitality of the town, said El Dorado County District 3 Supervisor Jack Sweeney.

“Are they going to have the money to come to South Lake Tahoe?” Sweeney said. “Not if we raise taxes.”

Sweeney praised Schwarzenegger in putting money to repair infrastructure.

“We’re fixing roads better now than we have in a long time,” he said.

Audience members had a chance to voice questions or offer opinions. Businessman John Runnels, a self-described Republican since he was 4 years old, believed Schwarzenegger was “opening the door” for others to back his campaign in part by signing a landmark piece of legislation on cutting greenhouse emissions this week.

“The course is steady now,” said Lovell, glad Schwarzenegger was able to reach across party lines. “We’re heading in the right direction.”

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