Finance Minister Carole James (Black Press files)

B.C. budget surplus expected to keep growing, Carole James says

Economic growth, strong employment pushes surplus forecast to $669 million

Increased tax revenues and steady economic growth have tripled the size of B.C.’s budget forecast for 2018-19, as changes made by the NDP government begin to show their effects on the province’s books.

Finance Minister Carole James released the first quarter financial results for the province Friday, projecting a surplus that has jumped to $669 million for the fiscal year ending next March.

The red-hot urban B.C. real estate market is “moderating,” resulting in declining revenue to the province, James said. The revenue fell by $53 million during the first quarter, from April through June, resulting in a projected drop of $250 million for the entire year.

That was more than made up by a projected increase of more than $1 billion in income tax revenue. Natural resource revenue is also projected to be up $495 million, mainly due to record high lumber prices.

Projected expenses are also up more than $1 billion, led by forest fire costs now estimated to be $477 for the current year. Emergency efforts for flooding also rose $162 million compared to the forecasts in the February budget.

James said the province’s employment picture continues to be the strongest in the country, helping drive the increase in income tax revenue. The threat is that people can get jobs but can’t find a place to live.

“If we don’t have affordable housing, people won’t stay in the province,” James said.

B.C. Liberal leader Andrew Wilkinson said the first quarter results are looking backward, and looking forward things are not so good.

“The NDP inherited a $2.7 billion surplus and the strongest economy in Canada, and now they’re projecting a slowing of growth, a 20 per cent drop in housing starts, which is a formula for widespread unemployment,” Wilkinson said. “And since they took office, the only job growth has been in government, with 10,000 new public sector jobs, and in the meantime 25,000 people in the private sector have lost their jobs.”

Another worry is trade, with the U.S. government threatening to pull out of the North American Free Trade Agreement and uncertainty continuing over lumber and other exports to the U.S.

RELATED: Trump, Trudeau mull walking away from NAFTA

One of the NDP government’s measures that has not yet shown up on the books is the introduction of an employers’ health tax on public and private payrolls over $500,000.

RELATED: Payroll, speculation tax tops B.C. municipal agenda

James reiterated that municipalities will not be getting a break on the new tax, which comes on top of reduced employee Medical Services Plan fees for 2019, before MSP premiums are phased out.

“Yes, they have a challenge in 2019, but we believe the benefit … of eliminating medical services premiums far outweigh the one-year challenge that they face,” James said.


@tomfletcherbc
tfletcher@blackpress.ca

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Just Posted

Mobile breast cancer screening coming to Creston

To book a screening mammogram call 1-800-663-9203. A doctor’s referral is not required.

Call a foul on cancer with the Pink Whistle Campaign

Local basketball referees are raising money for cancer research

Free farm succession planning workshop in Creston

The one-day workshop provides an overview of the succession planning process followed by detailed presentations by farm succession experts in accounting, law, insurance, and financing.

Teachers’ Association protests committee appointment process

Newly elected school trustee Al Gribbin’s request to sit on the Kootenay… Continue reading

Biologists discover another female calf in depleted South Purcell Mountain Caribou herd

Calf will be moved to Revelstoke maternity pens, then released

B.C. students win Great Waters Challenge video contest

Video, mural and song about saving the salmon claims the top prize

B.C. athlete takes home gold in freestyle aerials at Canada Games

Brayden Kuroda won the event with a combined score of 121.65.

Cabinet likely to extend deadline to reconsider Trans Mountain pipeline

New round of consultations with Indigenous communities is coming

B.C. government provides $75,000 towards salmon study

Study looks at abundance and health of Pacific salmon in Gulf of Alaska

Murdered and missing honoured at Stolen Sisters Memorial March in B.C.

‘We come together to make change within the systems in our society’

UBC researchers develop inexpensive tool to test drinking water

The tricoder can test for biological contamination in real-time

Disgraced ex-Congressman Anthony Weiner released from prison

He was convicted of having illicit online contact with a 15-year-old North Carolina girl in 2017

B.C. communities push back against climate change damages campaign

Activists copying California case that was tossed out of court

Most Read