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Schwarzenegger Vetoes Supercenter, Minimum Wage Bills

SACRAMENTO, Calif. - Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger vetoed a bill Saturday that would have required economic impact reports before local governments approve Wal-Mart-style supercenters, according to published reports. The Republican governor also vetoed a bill that would have hiked the minimum wage in California to $7.75 an hour.

Schwarzenegger said that the supercenter and minimum wage legislation would have been detrimental to the state's economy. He called the supercenter bill a bid to place "unnecessary, burdensome restrictions on businesses attempting to expand in California."

"The declared intent of this bill is 'to promote market competition and economic development,' but instead it would stifle market competition and expansion of employment within California," he said.

The supercenter bill would have required economic impact reports from retailers planning stores bigger than 130,000 square feet and deriving more than 10 percent of total sales from selling food. The reports would have featured assessments of the stores' impact on other businesses, wages, public services, and traffic. The Bentonville, Ark.-based retailer has said it wants to build 40 supercenters in the state over the next four years.

John Handley of the Sacramento-based California Independent Grocers Association told Progressive Grocer the organization was "disappointed" by the veto, since "we felt [the bill] was a step in the right direction" by seeking to provide local governments and planning commissions with additional information about supercenters being built in their areas. Another bill on the same subject was being considered, according to Handley, but couldn't be introduced until January 2005.

The minimum wage bill would have raised the state's minimum wage from $6.75 to $7.25 on Jan. 1, 2005 and to $7.75 on Jan. 1, 2006. According to the bill's supporters, the minimum wage hasn't kept pace with inflation, resulting in a "dramatically rising level of poverty" and growing dependence on taxpayer-funded social programs. In Schwarzenegger's view, however, "the high cost of doing business in California has driven away jobs, businesses and opportunity. Now is not the time to create barriers to our economic recovery or reverse the momentum we have generated. I want to create more jobs and make every California job more secure."

Supporters of the bill included the California Independent Grocers Association and several labor unions, while opponents included the state Chamber of Commerce, Costco, Wal-Mart, and the League of California Cities.
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