Sacramento Swings Tax Ax

Small family businesses fear greater struggles ahead

Even if their incomes dropped or stayed the same, many California taxpayers will wind up turning more money over to the state.

That's because the Franchise Tax Board has bumped them into higher tax brackets by lowering the threshhold of each of six state income brackets.

Because the board has ratcheted back on certain deductions, every taxpayer will cough up more to Sacramento -- whether or not they're in a new bracket or their incomes are unchanged.

"It's just sickening," says Noemi Flores, who owns and operates the Antique Row Cafe In Lemon Grove with her mother and brother. "It's like a wound that's already bleeding. They're just making it bigger for all those families."

The projected costs of the new tax measures -- the first time they've been implemented since 1983 -- are up to $140 per family.

"It may not seem like a lot," Flores said in an interview Thursday in her family-run American cuisine restaurant, "but when you take that along with car registrations going up -- all the other things that are being enacted -- it's just burdensome to all the families."

As a result of two budget crises in the past several months, state income and sales taxes have gone up, along with vehicle license fees, while withholding from paychecks will increase 10 percent starting Nov. 1 and dependent credits will be reduced by two-thirds.

Flores said all this comes at a time when her Antique Row Cafe -- in business for four and half years -- is struggling over the loss of a customer base that's dining out less frequently

Many of the restaurant's employees are Flores' family relatives and friends.

"When my mom, my brother and I go home and think about the business, we think 'Okay, it's not just about us'... we've got 19 other families we have to think about -- they depend on us -- and make sure that everything works out."

The cafe's customers seem just as worried, if not more so, about the eatery's financial plight as their own.

"Beyond the rising food costs, fuel costs and all the other challenges that they have," said Carlsbad resident Jerry Gammieri, "to suffer additional taxes? For what? What are they getting in return?"

"I've seen this restaurant when it's been full, and now it's getting lower and lower," said Mike Escobedo, a regular patron and retiree who lives nearby in Lemon Grove.

"They provide a wonderful service and fantastic good, and it's a family owned organization," added Eucalpytus Hills resident David Cohen.  "So it's troubling ... we wonder where it's going to end."

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