NORTHEAST — The provincial budget delays tax cuts, removes more PST exemptions, and ensures health and school division budgets keep up with inflation.
There will be a $365 million deficit in 2018-19, with a surplus of $6 million projected in the next year.
“One year ago, we charted a three year course to reduce Saskatchewan’s dependency on resource revenue and balance the budget by 2019,” Donna Harpauer, the province’s finance minister said in a media release. “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.”
Healthcare spending will go up 2.5 per cent to $5.77 billion. That includes for the $3.5 billion for the Saskatchewan Health Authority, an increase of $72 million. The province reports merging 12 health regions into the single health authority has saved $19 million in administration costs.
School divisions will receive $1.87 billion in operating costs, an increase of 1.6 per cent. Overall, funding for education is set at $3.26 billion, down 7.6 per cent over last year.
“This budget also fulfills the Premier’s commitment to increase education funding by $30 million,” Harpauer said. “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.”
The budget for social services and assistance will increase by $25 million to $1.38 billion.
Expenses are forecast at $14.61 billion in this budget, down $200 million or 1.4 per cent from last year.
A commitment to reduce personal income taxes by 0.5 per cent has been delay. Last year, the province decided to end pegging income tax brackets to inflation. That policy will continue.
The PST exemption for used light vehicles is being removed effective April 11. The PST exemption for Energy Star appliances is also being discontinued. The vehicle trade-in allowance, to allow a deduction for the value of a trade-in when determining PST, is being reinstated.
Government revenues are expected to increase by $80 million from last year to $14.24 billion. That’s mostly due to increased non-renewable resource revenues.
The province will continue to provide municipalities with a sum equal to one per cent of revenue generated by the PST – $241 million. It also reaffirmed a commitment to review how it’s going to provide that review next year.
There’s also changes to how the province will compensate municipalities for SaskPower and SaskEnergy facilities in their borders. They will pay grants-in-lieu of property taxes on owned real-estate like office buildings, but not do so for generation, transmission and distribution facilities, as well as pipelines and land.