Saskatchewan projecting $365M deficit in 2018-19 budget
The three-year plan to balance the books is on track as the government tabled a budget forecasting a $365-million deficit for the 2018-19 fiscal year, according to Saskatchewan Finance Minister Donna Harpauer.
Harpauer, who is the MLA for Humboldt, paid tribute to the victims of the Humboldt Broncos bus crash before delivering the budget.
WATCH BELOW: Saskatchewan’s finance minister emotionally speaks about Humboldt Broncos crash in legislature
A modest surplus of $6 million is forecast in 2019, increasing to $108 million the following year.
Harpauer said the budget increases spending in education, health care and social services while finding efficiencies in other departments.
“One year ago, we charted a three-year course to reduce Saskatchewan’s dependency on resource revenue and balance the budget by 2019,” Harpauer said.
“This year’s budget keeps that plan on track by controlling government spending, making important investments in health care, education and social services, and by keeping our economy strong through investments in infrastructure and new business incentives.”
The Opposition NDP said the budget does nothing to get people back to work.
“With Saskatchewan seeing a slow rate of job growth, and people struggling to make ends meet, we expected to see more in this budget that will help foster long-term growth and prosperity in our province, but that wasn’t the case,” finance critic Cathy Sproule said.
“What this budget shows is that Saskatchewan is being kept in a railway siding, meanwhile the debt is on track to triple since 2008 and there is no investment in prosperity.”
Harpauer said one of the goals of the three-year plan was to reduce the government’s reliance on resource revenue – which will account for 10 per cent of the province’s revenue, down from 32 per cent in 2008-09.
“This budget sets the stage for a new decade of growth by keeping Saskatchewan’s finances and our economy on track.”
Funding to school divisions is up 1.6 per cent to $1.87 billion, which Harpauer said fulfills Premier Scott Moe’s promise to increase education funding by $30-million.
“This will allow school divisions to continue to support students in the classroom by maintaining or hiring up to 400 teachers and other in-school professionals,” Harpauer said.
The NDP said the increase funding does not restore the $54 million in funding that was cut in the last budget.
The Saskatchewan Teachers’ Federation (STF) said they will still have to do more with less.
“With more students and fewer teachers, today’s budget won’t make it any easier to meet the needs of students,” STF president Patrick Maze said, adding that last year, there were 2,500 more students in classrooms and 188 fewer teachers.
Moe said that he would like to see the additional $30 million in the budget used to hire up to 400 teachers and other educational support staff.
A record $5.77 billion is being spent in health care, up nearly 2.5 per cent from 2017.
Harpauer said $19 million saved in administrative costs from the amalgamation of the 12 health authorities into the Saskatchewan Health Authority is being reinvested in front-line services.
There will be individualized funding for children with autism spectrum disorder, with initial funding of $4,000 per child under the age of six being provided this year. The total cost of the commitment in the budget year is $2.8 million.
The social services budget is increasing by $25 million to a record $1.38 billion, with over $10 million going to communities who provide direct support to adults with intellectual disabilities or mental health challenges.
The budget also contains no new tax hikes – and no carbon tax.
“All provincial tax rates, including the provincial sales tax, income tax and property tax remain the same,” Harpauer stated.
“And, despite the ongoing threats from the federal government, this budget contains no carbon tax.”
WATCH BELOW: The Saskatchewan provincial budget announced investments being made will be done without tax rate increases, with the exception of removing the PST exemption for used light vehicles.
Revenue for the budget year is forecast at $14.24 billion, up nearly $80 million, and spending at $14.61 billion, down $200 million from last year’s budget.
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