Commercial rates would be frozen for two years under a Liberals plan to ease financial pressure on Canberra businesses and stimulate investment to aid the coronavirus economic recovery.
A Coe government also plans to reduce business vehicle registration fees to bring them in line with NSW, in a move the Liberals say will save owners up to $150 a year.
The two policies would cost the ACT budget an estimated $47 million.
Opposition leader Alistair Coe and Liberal business and employment spokesman Andrew Wall on Thursday unveiled plans to halt the Barr government’s planned commercial rates rises if the Liberals win next month’s ACT election.
Under the Liberals’ policy, owners of commercial properties valued below $2 million wouldn’t be hit with a rate increase for the next two financial years, provided they pass on the savings to their tenant.
The policy would cost the ACT budget $26 million in forgone revenue, assuming that all eligible landlords take up the offer. The Liberals would also create a red-tape taskforce to look at cutting business taxes and charges.
Mr Wall said Canberra landlords had been stung by “unrelenting” commercial rate increase during the Barr government’s tax reforms.
He said the rate freeze would hand $26 million back to local businesses, helping them to retain staff, hire new employees and invest in their operation.
The policy represents another significant spending promise from the Liberals, who have already committed $124 million to increase elective surgery, $150 million to reduce car registration fees and build new carparks, plant 1 million trees and create a city-wide network of off-road bike paths, among other pledges.
The Liberals have yet to announce any cost-saving measures, with Mr Coe insisting his government could cover lost income by growing Canberra’s population and, in turn, the territory’s revenue pie.
Mr Wall was asked on Thursday if the Liberals had done any modelling to determine how many business would be created or retained in the ACT as a result of the commercial rates freeze.
In response, he said: “These policy announcements do multiple things. For businesses which are struggling at the moment, it provides some much needed relief. For those that are considering their options in moving over the border, it is making the ACT at least a level playing field”.
“For those looking to establish in the ACT, it’s essentially paving the way to say that a Canberra Liberals government would be better for business.”