Balanced but controlled highlights Saskatchewan’s budget, NDP calls it a credit card budget

REGINA – Calling it balanced with controlled spending, Saskatchewan’s Finance Minister Ken Krawetz tabled the 2013-14 provincial budget in the legislature today.

Krawetz is calling for a pre-transfer surplus of $64.8 million in the general revenue fund and a summary surplus of $149.8 million.

Total revenue is projected to be $11.61 billion while expenses are estimated at $11.54 billion.

Spending increase is capped at 3.1 per cent.

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“This budget balances continued growth with meeting the challenges of that growth,” said Krawetz.

“It balances economic progress with social progress. And it balances the need to control spending with the need to make important investments in key areas.”

One of those areas is health, with spending up $161.7 million to $4.8 billion, an increase of 3.5 per cent.

Education spending is up 6.7 per cent, increasing by $107.5 million to $1.7 billion with another $59.8 million being added to the capital budget for schools, hospitals and roads, bring the total budget to $847.5 million, an increase of 7.6 per cent.

As previously announced, the education property tax rate is being reduced to off-set the increase in property value which will keep it revenue neutral.

There will be increases in tobacco and alcohol prices.

The tobacco tax will increase by four cents a cigarette at midnight tonight, increase the cost of a package of 25 by one dollar. There is also a corresponding increase to the price of cut and loose tobacco.

On April 1, the price of liquor will go up an average of 3.0 per cent.

The Saskatchewan resource credit is also being reduced by a quarter point.

Krawetz also said the reduction of the corporate income tax rate from 12 per cent to 10 per cent is being deferred until it is deemed sustainable to make the cut.

The government is still targeting 2015 to have the rate down to 10 per cent.

There is also a reduction of $60 million in the amount of debt servicing, with the public debt forecast to remain at $3.8 million on March 31, 2014.

The opposition NDP quickly denounced the budget, calling it a “credit card budget.”

“This is a credit card budget. The Sask. Party is kicking responsibility down the road by pushing ahead with a buy now, pay later plan that will catch up to Saskatchewan before long,” said Trent Wotherspoon, NDP finance critic in referring to proposed public-private partnerships.

Wotherspoon also took aim at the government’s education plan, saying it fails to fix crowded classrooms and resource shortages.

When it comes to health, the NDP says the $54 million in efficiencies the health regions have been asked to make is in reality a shortfall.

“Saskatchewan people deserve investment into the long-term sustainability of education, health care and middle class.”

Not so, said Krawetz.

“This budget not only balances the books, it balances the priorities of Saskatchewan people.”

“It ensures Saskatchewan will continue to grow while meeting the challenges of that growth.”

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