A balanced provincial budget is good news for the business community, according to members of the Prince George Chamber of Commerce.
"The province as a whole cannot be competitive until it gets its own fiscal house in order," said chamber vice president of finance Derek Dougherty. "So it's a very important stepping stone to becoming a competitive powerhouse on the open market is to have your own fiscal house in order so that you know where you can make cuts and contemplate change in order to be competitive."
Prince George-Valemount MLA Shirley Bond said she knew there would be naysayers to the prospect of a balanced budget, but one of the reasons it was necessary was to maintain the province's competitiveness.
"We need to be able to maintain the confidence that people have in British Columbia so that they feel safe investing in our province," Bond said. "We have a AAA credit rating and we needed to make sure this budget ensures this AAA credit rating stays in place."
In Tuesday's budget speech in the Legislative Assembly, Finance Minister Mike de Jong indicated that businesses would need to carry some of the burden of steering the province toward eliminating the projected $1.2 billion deficit over the next three years.
While the general corporate income tax rate will increase by one point to 11 per cent as of April 1, the small business corporate tax rate will not change.
"[The tax increases] are not going to affect the small- to medium-sized businesses that really drive the economy," said Dougherty.
Chamber CEO Jennifer Brandle-McCall noted that it was a good sign that the budget wasn't being balanced on the back of one sector.
"It's important to note that, while no one in business wants to see corporate taxes increased, it's a more balanced approach to it when we know we're sharing that load with the increase to personal income tax and various other ways that the government's looking to increase their tax revenue," she said.
Individuals who earn $150,000 or more will have their personal income tax rates increase by 2.1 points to 16.8 per cent for two years, beginning Jan. 1, 2014.
"Even with this increase, B.C.'s top marginal tax rate will still be competitive," said de Jong.
What the budget speech lacked, according to Brandle-McCall was any clear indication of what the transition back to the PST would mean for the province as it tries to compete on the business stage.
"So we'd definitely like for that to be a focus for the government moving forward," she said.