EDMONTON – The Alberta government announced a balanced budget on Thursday, reporting the first surplus in six years. Here’s a closer look at the areas affected.
Building Alberta is outlined as a priority in budget 2014 and spending (and borrowing) reflects that. The province is borrowing $5 billion for infrastructure projects this year alone.
The province’s 2014-17 Capital Plan sees $19.2 billion spent on infrastructure projects – about $6.6 billion in each of the next two years and $6 billion in 2016-17.
An additional $150 million is allocated to the Municipal Sustainability Initiative over the next three years. The amount of MSI available is increasing by $25 million in 2014, $50 million in 2015 and $75 million in 2016.
Budget 2014 includes an additional $290 million for highway twinning and maintenance, including funds to finish twinning Highway 63.
The government is spending more than $19 billion over the next three years on schools, health facilities, and municipal capital projects through the Building Alberta Plan.
The Human Services Ministry saw one of the biggest increases this year, with a 5.5 per cent boost from last year.
About $4.1 billion will be spent this year on Human Services.
Child Intervention and Early Intervention Services for Children and Youth saw significant increases in funding.
Operating expenses increase by 3.7 per cent in the 2014 budget. That’s less than population plus inflation (five per cent), but higher than what it was in last year’s budget.
The increase to Education spending is 3.2 per cent.
The $6.5 billion allocated to Education includes total operating and property tax support for public and separate school boards of $6.4 billion for 2014.
However, funding per student does not increase.
While the budget allocates a small amount for continuing research on full-day Kindergarten, it does not provide money to fund full-day Kindergarten programs in schools.
Advanced Education and Innovation will receive $2.8 billion in the 2014 budget, which is an increase of 5.5 per cent.
Following the cuts to post-secondary that came in the 2013 budget, the government restored the Access to the Future Fund (that matches donations, which the government says are many).
That, a slight boost in funding, plus the $50 million that was previously reinstated, brings support for post-secondary close to the level it was prior to the 2013 cuts.
Forty-five per cent of government operational expenses go to health care.
The ministry will see a 3.6 per cent increase in spending this year.
Flood recovery will get nearly $1.1 billion in operational expense and capital spending over three years, which will cover the floodway relocation program, provide property tax relief to affected municipalities, support the Alberta Flood recovery Interest Rebate Program for small businesses.
This is in addition to the $3.8 billion included in last year’s budget.