Saskatchewan Finance Minister Ken Krawetz has tabled his 2013-14 provincial budget, with the province focussing on controlled spending in order to afford important investments in key areas.
Revenue is projected at $11.61 billion while expenses are estimated to be $11.54 billion, and Krawetz highlights that the budget is truly balanced.
"It is balanced in the General Revenue Fund and it is balanced in the Summary Financial Statements. And it is balanced in other ways as well. It is a budget that balances the needs to control spending with the needs to make investments in key areas," Krawetz said in a budget day interview.
"The General Revenue Fund is projected to post a $64.8 million pre-transfer surplus and a surplus of $149.8 million is forecast in the Summary Financial Statements, taking into account all government operations including the Crown Corporations."
$119.6 million in capital funding is being in provided to advance a number of school projects in 2013-14, an increase of $7.2 million from the previous year. That total includes $18.7 million for the construction of major capital projects in Hudson Bay, Leader and Martensville and $1.9 million to begin the planning of new school projects in Langenburg and Gravelbourg.
Record Crop Insurance funding and increased funding for strategic investments highlight the Saskatchewan Agriculture budget of $406.9 million in 2013-14.
Crop Insurance coverage levels will increase to a record $194 per acre on average in 2013, more than double the coverage offered in 2007. This year’s $198.3 million Crop Insurance budget is the largest in the history of the program and a 91 per cent increase since 2007.
Saskatchewan School Boards Association
Today’s provincial budget represents at best “status quo” for boards of education in Saskatchewan.
“As a result of the government's decision to fully fund PreK-12 education in Saskatchewan, school boards are on a fixed income determined by the province and individual school boards have little flexibility to respond to challenges within school divisions,” said SSBA President Janet Foord.
In response to unprecedented student growth in the province, the government committed to increased funding.
“What this means, though, is that the government at best is maintaining funding not adding more resources to meet all students’ achievement needs. The targets for which boards are accountable have been mandated by the government this budget does not provide the resources required to achieve those targets,” said Foord.
Saskatchewan Green Party
The Green Party of Saskatchewan thinks the latest provincial budget misses the mark in terms of balancing revenues and expenses with needs and priorities.
Green Party Leader Victor Lau says there is too much boom spending in this budget.
“There is a big difference between ensuring adequate core spending in government, and extravagant overspending,” says Lau. “Given all of the new spending in the budget, I would ask why is Saskatchewan suffering from homelessness and poverty?”
Lau also passed on a series of financial recommendations to the government, including reducing the PST from five per cent to four percent, along with reducing or eliminating all spending on government advertising except for emergency items.
Saskatchewan Urban Municipalities Association
Urban governments in Saskatchewan are pleased with the provincial government’s continued support for our cities, towns and villages in their efforts to help our province grow.
“Saskatchewan’s villages, towns and cities are experiencing unprecedented growth,” said Mayor Debra Button, SUMA President. “Urban governments across the province are on the frontline, providing the services and infrastructure we need to attract business and new residents. The government’s investment in our communities will go a long way to helping us meet the demands of growth”
Today’s budget includes increased funding to the Saskatchewan Assessment Management Agency and the Saskatchewan Municipal Board. These organizations provide critical services to urban governments around property assessment and borrowing approval. Urban centres that provide transit for people with disabilities will also have access to increased capital funding to purchase necessary equipment to provide this service.
The government also announced a special fund aimed at developing regional planning authorities. These authorities will work collaboratively with urban and rural governments to co-ordinate regional planning and development.
Saskatchewan Chamber of Commerce
The Saskatchewan Chamber of Commerce commends the provincial government for being the only Canadian province still putting forward a balanced budget, while maintaining a focus on meeting infrastructure needs.
“Overall, the budget seems to have found a balance between increasing specific capital expenditures and maintaining fiscal prudence on operational spending, and we expect that any of the Ministries that are impacted by lower than normal increases in funding will be able to find new efficiencies, similar to how efficiencies must be found in the private sector during lean times,” said Saskatchewan Chamber CEO Steve McLellan.
“While we are generally pleased with the content of the budget, there are still some areas that we would have liked to see the government place additional emphasis on, including greater focus on enhancing skills training, which continues to be one of the greatest challenges facing Saskatchewan businesses today,” continued McLellan.