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de Jong delivers balanced B.C. budget

Finance Minister Mike de Jong delivered another balanced provincial budget Tuesday.

Total government revenue is forecast at $50.8 billion in 2017-18, $51.2 billion in 2018-19, and $52.0 billion in 2019-20. Total expense over the three-year plan is forecast at $50.2 billion in 2017-18, $50.7 billion in 2018-19, and $51.6 billion in 2019-20.

That will deliver surpluses of $295 million in 2017-18, $244 million in 2018-19, and $223 million in 2019-20, said de Jong.

“Budget 2017 represents this government’s fifth-consecutive balanced budget, showing the benefits of a fiscal plan that includes steady, solid growth and managed spending,” he said in delivering the budget speech. “There’s additional funding for the programs people rely upon and almost $1 billion left in the pockets of British Columbians to let them make the choices that are important to them.”

However, the overall provincial debt, will continue to increase. “Total taxpayer-supported debt is forecast to be $43.3 billion in 2017-18, $45.2 billion in 2018-19 and $47.2 billion in 2019-20, reflecting a significant increase in infrastructure investment over the next three years,” according to budget documents.

One of the most visible moves stemming from the budget is a reduction of Medical Services Plan premiums.

Beginning Jan. 1, 2018, MSP premiums will be reduced by 50 per cent for households with an annual net income of up to $120,000. Following this change, more than two million British Columbians will pay no premiums and a further two million will see a 50 per cent reduction in their premiums — cutting premiums near to levels set in 1993, said de Jong. A typical family of four paying full premiums will save $900 per year in 2018. A single parent with net income up to $40,000 and two children will see their monthly premiums drop from $46 to $23. A family with net income less than $35,000 and two children will see their monthly premiums eliminated.

Compared to Budget 2016, the education budget will increase by $740 million over three years, including $228 million more to fund enrolment growth in B.C. schools, funding for rural education enhancement, student transportation, K-12 salary costs, continued funding for the Learning Improvement Fund, and an incremental $320 million over three years while government works to conclude a final agreement with the BC Teachers’ Federation on class size and composition. Budget 2017 is also funding $2 billion in school capital projects over three years — to build, replace, renovate, seismically upgrade and repair schools throughout the province.

The Ministry of Health will see a three-year increase of $4.2 billion, compared to its 2016-17 base budget, including funding to support government’s $100-million, three-year enhancement in services addressing mental health and substance use issues, particularly for youth. Budget 2017 also includes funding for $2.7 billion in health capital projects – including new patient care towers at both the Penticton Regional Hospital and the Royal Inland Hospital in Kamloops. The recent funding agreement with the federal government will provide additional resources over and above these budgeted amounts for addictions treatment and mental health.

 

Horgan calls budget Clark's 'forget everything' budget

BC NDP leader John Horgan

Christy Clark’s “Forget Everything” pre-election budget is cold comfort to people after a decade and a half of B.C. Liberal neglect, says B.C. New Democrat Leader John Horgan.

“Christy Clark made life worse for ordinary families. And now that an election is coming she wants people to forget everything,” said Horgan. “The B.C. Liberals are using their cash surplus to make you forget there’s a deficit in the services people care about. “She wants people to forget that she hit them with endless hikes to Medical Services Plan premiums, rising hydro bills, skyrocketing housing costs, a crisis in child care affordability, and the worst wage growth in Canada.

“Christy Clark wants British Columbians to forget the $300,000 she took from her wealthy friends, and the billion-dollar tax break she gave to her big money donors in return.

Horgan pointed out that MSP premiums have doubled under the Liberals, while the NDP suggested eliminating MSP premiums two years ago,

“The only thing Christy Clark cares about is winning the next election. After years of neglect why would anyone believe she is going to change now?”

Horgan said that since Christy Clark was elected the average family is paying more than $1,000 more for Hydro, MSP and ICBC fees alone.

“Fifteen years of cuts from our kids’ classrooms, and robbed an entire generation of children of opportunity — and Christy Clark says ‘Forget about it,’” said Horgan. “She wants British Columbians to forget that she was forced by the Supreme Court of Canada to restore what she cut from our schools.

“Christy Clark is hoping her ‘forget everything’ budget will distract from the fact that nine in 10 seniors' care homes are understaffed."

 

Budget highlights

  • $287 million over the next three years to the Ministry of Children and Family Development, of which $120 million is to begin addressing recommendations of the Grand Chief Ed John Report on Indigenous Child Welfare.
  • $199 million to fund a $600 per year increase to income assistance rates for persons with disabilities.
  • $175 million to provide income assistance supports for those in need, including $8 million to exempt additional child-related benefits, expected to help 600 families and 1,000 children.
  • $135 million over three years for community living services, primarily via Community Living BC.
  • The province continues to act to address housing supply and improve housing affordability for middle-class B.C. families. Government has committed $920 million to support the creation of over 5,300 affordable housing units. Leading up to Budget 2017, government committed an additional $65 million to fund another 380 affordable housing units to house the homeless and those with mental health or substance use issues. The BC HOME Partnership program, launched in January 2017, will provide more than $700 million in repayable down payment assistance over the next three years to help over 42,000 individuals and families get into the housing market for the first time. 
  • Eliminating PST on electricity over the coming two years — saving small, medium, large and industrial businesses throughout the province $164 million by 2019-20, which further encourages use of clean B.C. hydro power. This measure was recommended by the Commission on Tax Competitiveness.
  • Cutting the small business corporate income tax rate to 2% from 2.5%.
  • Extending and enhancing sector tax credits for tech, Scientific Research and Experimental Development, venture capital to support innovation, commercialization and the tech sector.
  • Investing a record $13.7 billion over three years in new and upgraded provincial taxpayer-supported infrastructure to support services and jobs.
  • $796 million for children, families and those in need.
  • $740 million for the K-12 sector, including $320 million to address the recent interim agreement with the BCTF.
  • More than $700 million for first-time homebuyers, building on $920 million for housing affordability and assistance.
  • $249 million for communities and economic development.
  • $149 million for parks and environmental protection.
  • $280 million for other programs and services.

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