SAN FRANCISCO — Retail and apparel industry officials in California expressed concern about the business climate after voters rejected four ballot initiatives proposed by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger.
The movie star-turned-Republican politician, viewed by some as essential to a more business-friendly state, is now weakened by the defeat.
Rick Caruso, owner of Caruso Affiliated, which has a dozen outdoor shopping centers in Southern California, said the rejection of the Schwarzenegger-backed proposals won’t have any immediate impact on retailing, but he expressed worry about the California budget deficit.
“I’m concerned the direction the state is going, in terms of business climate,” he said. “You can’t run a state differently than you run a business.”
Retailers had joined other businesses in financially backing Schwarzenegger’s ballot propositions. The California Retailers’ Association gave $270,000 to support the initiatives. Target and Wal-Mart each gave $100,000, according to state election records.
The proposals would have capped state spending and given the governor more power over the budget, as well as transferred authority to draw legislative districts from the Democratic-controlled legislature to a committee of retired judges. Other initiatives would have made it tougher for teachers to get tenure and compelled unions to get written permission from members to use dues for political campaigns.
Bill Dombrowski, president of the California Retailers Association, said any dampening effect on Schwarzenegger’s ability to work with the legislature would be short-lived. In conceding failure at the polls, the governor struck a conciliatory tone, saying he would work anew to tackle tough issues.
“His image has been totally distorted by the political ads the unions were running against him for the last six months,” Dombrowski said. “Getting past this will allow the governor to better convey his moderate GOP positions.”
Schwarzenegger, who came to office two years ago in an election that recalled incumbent Democrat Gray Davis, angered Democrats by also striking out on his own and calling the special election.
Ilse Metchek, executive director of the Los Angeles-based California Fashion Association, said continued friction between the governor and Democratic legislators could doom efforts by state manufacturers and design companies, including apparel, to restore an expired manufacturing tax credit and institute one for research and development.
The governor, who is up for reelection next year, supports the tax credits, while Democratic lawmakers have generally opposed them.