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Kelowna Chamber of Commerce weighs in on B.C. budget

The Kelowna Chamber of Commerce is congratulating the Liberal government for fulfilling its commitment to return to a balanced budget.

“We’ve been pushing governments to make sure they are keeping their fiscal house in order and making sure they are achieving a balanced budget," said Dave Bond, executive vice-president of the chamber.

"Doing that means certain tax increases and cuts to other areas.” But, he added, moving forward the chamber wants to see Victoria address things it feels will affect B.C.'s ability to be more business competitive, such as the change back to PST from the HST and looking at the tax increases the finance minister announced in the budget Monday.

The chamber says it is concerned about the impact those measures will have on keeping business competitive.

The budget forecast a modest $197 million surplus in 2013-14. The return to balance is to be achieved through a combination of spending restraint and additional revenue measures including an increase to the corporate tax rate effective April 1, 2013, a phase out of the school property tax credit for light industry and an increase in personal income tax for those earning over $150,000, said Finance Minister Mike de Jong.

While some of the issues that the Kelowna chamber has put forward in the past, such as more support for the organized crime task force and no tax impact for small businesses, were addressed in the budget, a number of others were not.

“A couple of things that we have been advocating for and pushing the government for are looking at skills training and incentives for business areas in the Okanagan where competitiveness can be improved, such as digital media and other knowledge- based businesses whether that's healthcare or high-tech," said Bond.

"We also want the provincial government to address the issues of reducing the property transfer tax.”

The biggest priority for the local chamber, which is now the largest in B.C., is to increase the competitiveness of B.C. businesses, said the KCOC executive vice-president.

“It’s the little things that add up for small businesses such as increases in MSP and the return to PST – those are the things that impact business competitiveness and those are the things we will be going back to both (the governing Liberals and the Oppositon NDP) to make sure they are both looking at those issues.”

The Kelowna Chamber of Commerce has 1,200 members with an estimated total of 25,000 employees.

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