Mar 21, 2017
The Government of Saskatchewan is preparing to roll in changes which will affect fees and services paid by residents.
On Thursday, the provincial government's website posted a release discussing the adjustments which will begin during the 2017-2018 fiscal year.
According to the release, the modifications will create an additional $8.7 million towards the General Revenue Fund (GRF) and $886,500 to the Fish and Wildlife Development Fund during the time frame. In addition, the government hopes the changes will help in recovering the cost provided by services such as eHealth and the Financial and Consumer Affairs Authority. Officials are expecting around $1.1 million to go towards these services. The list of changes is available here.
Saskatchewan's 2017-2018 Provincial Budget can be found here
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Saskatchewan's deficit is more than $1 Billion.
Saskatchewan’s deficit has more than doubled since June. Job losses and increased taxes are on the table as a result.
The province, according to the mid-year financial update released Tuesday, is $1.041 billion in the red for the current fiscal year.
That is significantly higher than the $434-million deficit projected in the 2016-17 budget.
Finance Minister Kevin Doherty gave a clearer picture of the province’s finances Tuesday, but for weeks he and Premier Brad Wall have signalled less revenue from taxes and non-renewable resources were contributing to tough financial times for the province.
The mid-year financial update shows revenue for 2016-17, which ends March 31, to be $13.7 billion, or $321.6 million lower than expected when the budget was released.
On the spending side, things aren’t any better: The province is spending $285.4 million more than expected at budget, bringing the expected total to $14.74 billion.
Much of that extra spending is due to a higher-than-expected need for crop insurance and, with claims still being filed, could continue to grow.
That leaves the province in a position of needing to continue cutting spending this year while looking at how to increase revenues — possibly through tax increases — next year.
“Restraint measures” to the tune of $217 million are being undertaken by government ministries and Crown corporations between now and March, when the next budget comes out.
“We have to take strong measures on the spending side to ensure we can get that back to balance over a period of time,” Doherty told reporters.
Those strong measures include reduced spending on post-secondary institutions, health care, education, highways, justice, parks and social services.
A hiring freeze has been put in place as government looks to avoid mass layoffs in its $6.3 billion in public sector salaries, and a number of projects are being postponed or having maintenance delayed.
“If we are going to control government spending, we have to control our labour costs,” Doherty said.
Tax hikes could also soon be seen in Saskatchewan.
Doherty once again asserted “everything is on the table” when it comes to the revenue side of the government leger, including tax hikes and removing certain tax exemptions.
Not on the table, though, is accepting a federally imposed carbon tax. Doherty continued to say the province would not be in favour of that.
The government is referring to its deficit as $806 million, but that excludes $236 million worth of Workers’ Compensation Board (WCB) surplus repayments to businesses around the province.
There is also little mention in government press releases about the $500 million the province is borrowing to pay operational expenses. That’s like a family using a credit card to keep the lights on, and Doherty agreed spending in such a manner is not sustainable but only bad if there is not a plan to stop doing it.
“We simply haven’t got the cash this year to pay all of our bills,” said Doherty. “If you have that kind of revenue fall off, that precipitously, you have to continue to pay the salaries of your nurses and your physicians and your teachers and your social workers and all the different things that government’s involved in, so we need to borrow some money to pay those bills this year.”
NDP finance critic Cathy Sproule said something is wrong with the deficit number going up significantly only four months after the budget.
“It’s more than doubled, so I think there are some serious problems with the way they’re projecting,” said Sproule, who takes issue with the province’s need to borrow so much money to continue operating.
Making the next budget a balanced one, Doherty said, is still the goal; but he admitted doing so would be “very difficult.”
November 23, 2016 D.C. Fraser Regina Leader Post