Finance minister Kevin Doherty has brought down the 2017/18 provincial budget.
It is a document that controls spending, modernizes and expands the tax base, and invests in priority government programs, services and infrastructure projects with a plan to balance the budget in three years time.
The government is forecasting a deficit of 685 million this year with a shortfall of 304 million projected for 2018-19 and a 15 million dollar surplus in 2019-20.
Here are some of the major points:
PROVINCIAL SALES TAX
The provincial sales tax is going up by one percent from five to six percent with a number of PST exemptions being eliminated.
It will now apply to children’s clothing and restaurant meals.
The government says the PST increase will amount to 711 dollars a year for a family of four earning $100,000, while the income tax reductions would total $2,662.
A single person making a wage of $40,000 will pay $130 more in PST annually, while income tax cuts would total $879.
STC SHUT DOWN
The government is also announcing they are winding down operations of the Crown-owned bus line, Saskatchewan Transportation Company.
Passenger service will cease as of May 31 with freight being accepted until May 19.
In a statement, Crown Investments Minister Joe Hargrave says the decision “was not arrived at easily” and that “our government believes that those funds can be put to better use elsewhere in government.”
The move to shut down STC is expected to save around $17 million per year.
Tobacco and alcohol are also going up as the tobacco tax will increase by two cents per cigarette beginning Thursday.
Starting April 1, wholesale liquor markups will increase by 6.8 per cent for most beer products, six per cent for most coolers and four per cent for most spirits.
Doherty says the challenge that has been provided to them is clear, and that the government must move away from its reliance on resource revenues while ensuring important government programs and services remain affordable and sustainable.
OPPOSITION CALLS BLUEPRINT ‘DECEITFUL’
The opposition NDP is predictably not impressed.
Finance critic Cathy Sproule says after a decade in government, the Saskatchewan Party has learned nothing about supporting Saskatchewan people, managing through difficult times, or working together to build the future.
She adds every page of the budget shows another broken promise, tax hike, or a cut to Saskatchewan families trying to get ahead.
Sproule also points out the government has not addressed several areas including seniors care and the growing suicide crisis in northern Saskatchewan.
REGINA MAYOR MAY HAVE TO REVISIT THE CITY’S BOOKS
Regina’s mayor says he’s generally pleased with the Saskatchewan Budget, but he does share concerns.
Michael Fougere says the impact of other funding changes and downloading measures announced in Wednesday’s budget remains to be seen.
That includes the elimination of “grants in lieu” from some Crown corporations, the continued reductions to the Urban Highway Connector Program, and the ending of funding for libraries.
He concedes the city may have to re-visit its own budget as a result.
Fougere is pleased to see the province’s revenue sharing formula remains intact, and he is also happy with the continued investment in the Regina Bypass.
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