Budget day: something many anxiously await while others could not be bothered to tune in. But regardless of how you feel about it, the 2017-18 budget will impact every Saskatchewanian's life one way or another, from back-to-school shopping to catching a bus.
'Meeting the Challenge' is this year's budget slogan, and the challenges are significant. It will cost $14.8 billion to run the province this year, which is $342 million more than last year, in a time when resource revenues are falling. The deficit is slated to be $685 million.
Shutting down the STC busing company and applying PST to children’s clothing and restaurants a few of the changes that will impact Saskatchewan citizens.
According to Finance Minister Kevin Doherty, STC ridership has been going down drastically the past few years which in turn have forced ticket prices to go from $25 to $90. Essentially the government would have to put in more money than the STC can produce. The busing services will end on May 31, 2017.
There will also be changes in taxation. “We’re...going to shift towards consumption taxes like a sales tax, (and) away from taxes that inhibit job growth and economic strength, like income taxes,” said Premier Brad Wall.
Restaurants and snack foods will also be added to the sales tax. Doherty said he realizes that this may reduce business for small and medium-sized restaurant owners, but it will bring in revenue to help the province overall. The PST additions are projected to bring in about $15.6 million this year. Doherty stressed that although people will face some extra PST charges, income taxes will go down, saving taxpayers a projected $82.2 million.
“The bottom line is that we have a list of exemptions of provincial sales tax system that if we’re going to move to a more consumption tax base, those are big areas that we had to look at,” said Doherty.
“It’s complete dishonesty, the Sask Party has lied to Saskatchewan people on front after front, and this budget is totally not fair” said NDP interim leader Wotherspoon. “It’s taking a pound of flesh from hard working Saskatchewan people, massive hikes to the taxes that Saskatchewan people pay."
Premier Wall defends his government's budget, saying, “I’m happier about this budget, because it takes a longer view than any other budget table…and moreover this budget has a long term vision for our economy.”
“The broad action of this budget is that we will in the years ahead, first of all get to balance, we’re not procrastinating like many other provinces have decided to do or the federal government,” said Wall. The budget projects a surplus by 2021.
“When the income tax reduction plan is fully implemented in this budget, it’s going to offset the PST significantly, and those massive tax reductions will grow,” said Wall.
Both parties acknowledged the fact that the added PST taxes and phasing out of STC will make many people unhappy. “At the end of the day, I can only have so many things that I can task,” said Doherty.
Meanwhile, Saskatchewanians will have to adjust. They will no longer be able to catch a bus from Regina to Saskatoon with STC, parents will have to pay PST on their children’s clothes and, if you’re planning on going out for supper, expect a higher bill than usual.