The Canberra Liberals are considering a proposal to freeze commercial rates if they win next year's election, arguing the ACT government's "unsustainable" tax policies are driving businesses into the ground and over the border.
Opposition leader Alistair Coe on Friday said the idea was "certainly on the table", as he met with Phillip business owners struggling under the pressure of soaring rates bills.
One owner, Pedder Suspension's Terry Patat, has seen his rates bill climb from $12,035 to $22,666 in the past three years - a 76 per cent spike.
The Liberals have already pledged to freeze residential rates in their first term if they trump Labor at next October's ballot, as well as abolish payroll tax.
Mr Coe has now signaled his intention to extend rate relief to business owners, arguing they were suffering just as much, if not more, than homeowners.
"Residential rates are certainly very bad, commercial rates are arguably even worse," Mr Coe said.
"Stopping it [rate increases] and not increasing it is the least that can and should be done. It is certainly one of the things that is on the table."
Mr Coe said tax settings should be as "respectful as possible" to businesses owners, who were making "huge sacrifices" in order to deliver services to Canberrans.
"If we continue to make it even harder to do business in this city, we are simply going to drive people over the border and we are not going to have the services we need in the ACT," he said.
Chief Minister Andrew Barr has repeatedly challenged Mr Coe over his tax plans, arguing the Liberals will have to cut funding for essential services to pay for the promises.
Labor last month pledged to grow the public service and ruled out privatising territory assets if re-elected next year.
Mr Coe has promised no cuts to the public sector, believing he can create efficiencies in the bureaucracy by removing red tape.
On Friday, he was pressed on how the Liberals would fund a residential and commercial rate freeze, while maintaining public sector spending.
Mr Coe said that providing more "respectful" tax rates would encourage more businesses to remain in Canberra, rather than relocate elsewhere. Growing Canberra's business sector would mean a "much bigger [tax] pie," he said.
Mr Barr described Mr Coe's proposed tax policies as a "con".
"The Canberra Liberals are floating tax cut promises worth hundreds of millions of dollars with no way to pay for them," Mr Barr said.
Phillip businesses have been feeling the pinch from the Barr government's tax agenda, with some hit it with $100,000 rate rises following a round of revaluations in 2016.
Asked where he saw his business in 10 years' time, Mr Patat said: "Queanbeyan".
"It's getting very, very difficult to stay," Mr Patat said.
Phillip Business Community president Robert Issell said traders were "disappointed in the way they are being treated".
"They work very hard, they work long hours, but the rewards just aren't there anymore," Mr Issell said.
"It was once a good time to do business in Canberra, but it doesn't seem to be that way anymore."
Mr Issell said while businesses were being slugged higher rates, they were not receiving better, or even adequate, services in return.
"It's as if they [the government] feel like they have the right to take our money, but not deliver the services that we should be getting."