'More than a decade of prudent fiscal management has paid off for B.C. '
The B.C. Liberals introduced a balanced budget Tuesday in the Legislature with hopes of swaying voters in the upcoming provincial election in May.
Minister of Finance Michael de Jong delivered the document before house saying, “more than a decade of prudent fiscal management has paid off for B.C. “
“While other jurisdictions are postponing balanced budgets to later years, we are in the enviable position of having a balanced budget and are in a much better place than most to manage the ongoing global volatility and uncertainty,” de Jong added.
The 2013 budget delivers on government’s commitment to balance the budget while investing in early childhood development and helping B.C. families save for their children’s future training and education.
But to get this balance budget, de Jong, who said operating a deficit is not longer an option, was required to hike both corporate and personal income taxes.
The general corporate income tax rate increases one percentage point to 11 per cent from 10, effective April 1, 2013 while MSP premiums rise by about four per cent in January 2014.
Nine of the province’s 17 ministries must also cut spending over the next three years.
De Jong plans to slow health spending and plans to shave increases that were promised in the 2012 budget.
Green Party leader Jane Sterk said she agrees with balancing the budget but doubts whether the Liberal government has achieved that goal.
“A balanced budget must be seen as a responsible tool for increasing citizens quality of living and efficiency and efficacy of government services,” Sterk explained.
“This budget does not present a solid vision for the future of British Columbia. Instead, the expenditures and investments seem to have been haphazardly derived, simply as ends in themselves.”
New Democrat finance critic Bruce Ralston said the Liberals have run out of ideas with this introduction of Tuesday’s budget.
“Rather than present a budget that addresses the important issues facing British Columbians today, the Liberals created a document designed to carry them into an election and lacks all credibility,” said Ralston.
“It’s 2009 all over again. The Liberals are overly optimistic on the revenue side, and underrepresenting the expenditure side,” Ralston added.
“This budget relies on at least a half-billion dollars of public asset sales that may or may not happen in the coming year.”
The provincial deficit is forecast to come in at $1.2 billion for the 2012-13 fiscal year, while the Liberals are promising budget surpluses in all three years of the 2013-16 fiscal plan for a total of $868 million by 2016.
“Over the next three years, total revenue is expected grow by an average of three per cent annually,” said de Jong.
“But we will continue to hold the line on spending, by increasing expenditures an average of just 1.5 per cent a year over the three-year fiscal plan.”
The province is implementing the B.C. Training and Education Savings Grant — a one-time $1,200 grant toward the Registered Education Savings Plan of any six-year-old child.
Effective in 2015, the province aims to introduce a new tax benefit of up to $55 per month per child for families earning less than $100,000.
Those earning between $100,000 and $150,000 will receive a partial benefit.