BARSTOW • Barstow residents, along with the rest of California, began paying higher sales tax rates Wednesday.
Sales tax went up by one percent throughout the state as part of the budget fix that the California legislature passed in February to help stem a $42 billion deficit. In Barstow, the rate went from 7.75 percent to 8.75 percent.
The new tax rate remains effective until June 30, 2011, but could be extended for another year if voters approve a budget stabilization initiative on the May 19 special election ballot.
Shoppers at Barstow's Wal-Mart store Thursday expressed distaste for the new sales tax rate.
"We hate it," said Lauren Ince, coming out of the store with husband Matthew and four-month-old daughter Abigail.
Mike Klemmer said he does not expect to cut back on his consumption much but will be more careful in how he shops, watching prices and looking for sales.
"It just makes it more difficult, especially for those on fixed incomes, and it also hurts those who already weren't making a good wage," he said. "... I don't think anyone's too happy about it."
Ed Bawanah, restaurant manager at Flying J Travel Plaza truck stop, said Thursday that he had heard only a couple of comments about the sales tax increase from customers, mostly grumbling about Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger. With small-ticket items like restaurant meals, however, the increase only amounts to 10 or 15 cents. Bawanah said he would not expect the change to cut into business at the truck stop.
Robert Brunner, owner of the Brunner's Tiny Time Shop store on East Main Street, said customers have been understanding so far. He did not expect that the business, which sells jewelry, watches, trophies and plaques, would suffer from the increase.
"I hope it balances the budget," he said. "... It's better than taking away from our schools — that's my opinion."
State officials are projecting that consumers will spend less because of the tax increase. The city of Barstow will budget for a decrease in its own sales tax revenues in the next year, although not entirely because of the rate increase, Finance Director Terri Willoughby said.
The sales tax increase goes entirely to the state, and the city's portion — one cent for each taxable dollar spent — will not increase.
The budget passed in February also included a .25 percent increase in the personal income tax rate in the 2009 and 2010 tax years and a .5 percent increase in vehicle licensing fees from this May through July 1, 2011.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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