Canberra homeowners can only expect a temporary reprieve from residential rate hikes, with Chief Minister Andrew Barr stressing the support to be offered next financial year is "not a forever thing".
The ACT government won't increase residential rates for about two thirds of homeowners next financial year, as it looks to ease hip pocket pressure on households and inject more money into the economy in the wake of the COVID-19 shutdown.
Some 110,000 homeowners will see their rates drop when the government's $150 rebate, which will be applied to their first bill of 2020-21, is factored in.
However, rates will still increase on about 36,500 properties, with homeowners in Reid, Red Hill and O'Malley set to be slugged an extra 4 per cent next financial year.
The government had said that rates would rise only between 1 and 2 per cent for about 18,000 homeowners, but that number was revised up on Wednesday morning.
Mr Barr has long resisted calls to ease up on annual residential rate hikes, which is a crucial part of Labor's 20-year program to eventually phase out stamp duty.
But speaking to reporters before delivering his annual State of the Territory address on Wednesday, Mr Barr said it was appropriate to change tack given the unfolding economic crisis.
However, Mr Barr insisted the shift was only temporary, stressing that the government wasn't about to walk away from the reform program. He pointed out the government had accelerated one aspect of the tax reform through the waiving of stamp duty on new residential blocks - albeit just for one year.
"This is not a forever thing," Mr Barr said in reference to the rate relief announced on Wednesday.
"It is not sustainable to do it forever."
Mr Barr said it was necessary for the government to increase spending to prop up the economy during the recession. But he warned that once the economy did bounce back, the government would need to start repairing the budget position.
The Canberra Liberals, which have pledged to freeze residential rates for their first four years of government if they win October's election, were cynical about Mr Barr's announcement.
"Nobody is fooled by Labor's desperate backflip on rates, just four months out from an election," Mr Coe said.
"After creating this mess, this inadequate and half-hearted attempt at cleaning it up isn't rolling anyone.
"Labor has proven time and time again that increasing rates is in their DNA.
"Labor's tired and outdated philosophy is and always has been to tax people 'til they bleed but not until they die'. It just what they do."
Canberra Business Chamber chief executive Graham Catt, whose organisation hosted the event, welcomed the rate relief.
But Mr Catt said further rates reform was needed, in particular to the "controversial" commercial tax regime, which he said was leading to higher rents and reduced property values across the ACT.
Owners Corporation Network president Gary Petherbridge accused Mr Barr of using the COVID-19 crisis as cover to wind back an unpopular policy ahead of this year's election.
Mr Petherbridge was disappointed that unit owners would not benefit from the same level of rate decreases as homeowners. He again called on the ACT government to release the findings of an independent review of the tax reform program, which was commissioned late last year.
Mr Barr used the State of the Territory address to frame a high-level vision for the territory's recovery from the twin health and economic crisis sparked by the COVID-19 pandemic.
He described government spending as an "important and powerful tool" during any downturn, arguing now wasn't the time to be chasing budget surpluses.
But while there was a promise of rates relief, Mr Barr didn't use the platform to announce any new spending or infrastructure programs - much to the disappointment of the Master Builders Association of the ACT.
Mr Barr said while the ACT still had the nation's lowest unemployment rate, the economic crisis had hit Canberrans hard, particularly those who were struggling prior to the pandemic. He again pointed out that women and young people would, for different reasons, be disproportionately affected by the crisis.
In explaining the types of economic support rolled out to households and business during the crisis, Mr Barr said the government had recognised the "past failings" of previous stimulus packages and focused primarily on delivering support through automatically applied rebates.
He said that meant ratepayers didn't have to go through "onerous and confusing" application processes.
He claimed the Morrison's government's JobKeeper wage subsidy scheme was the "biggest and most egregious" example of a confusing application process.
Some of the ACT government's support measures have required applications, including the rate rebate scheme for commercial and residential landlords.
The Canberra Times this week reported the take up of both schemes had been far lower than projected.