Chief Minister, Andrew Barr has handed down his first budget of the new Assembly and the first formal update of the Territory’s finances since the pandemic began.

Despite remining in the red, the local economy has fared better than originally thought.

The Territory’s debt now sits at $603 million, down from an anticipated $900 million originally forecast last August.

“Roughly speaking, we have recovered about half of the revenue that has been lost since the start of the pandemic.”

It’s expected the Territory will see a $579 million dollar improvement to its bottom line over the coming four years but will remain in the red by the time the next ACT election rolls around in 2024.

Health and Education are the two biggest winners out of this year’s $6.75 billion dollar spend.

Funding for the Government’s continuing coronavirus response, the local vaccine rollout and improvements to local health services taking the biggest share of the pie, with a total spend of $1.8 billion.

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Education came in second best with a $1.5 billion share for the build of new schools in Canberra’s North, the expansion of Teacher Librarian places and the rollout of improved access to digital learning tools.

Bad news for property owners, with the Government’s coronavirus rates freeze set to come to an end mid-year as part of the Territory’s tax reform package.

“Stage 3 will see a 3.75 per cent annual rates increase as a Territory-wide average, there will of course be unders and overs based upon fluctuations of property values.”

Further details of the rates increase will be outlined ahead of the next Territory budget.

The Chief Minister defending the decision to spend big as the pandemic continues.

“The ACT’s economic recovery is not over.”

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“While the rollout of the national vaccine program is promising, it’s important that the ACT Government continues to be one of the mains drivers of economic development in the Territory to help protect local jobs.”

The next ACT Budget is due to be handed down in August 2021.