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BC NDP budget promises big social spending

Last Updated Sep 12, 2017 at 6:47 am PDT

(Lasia Kretzel, NEWS 1130, Photo)

VICTORIA (NEWS 1130) – British Columbia’s new NDP government has unveiled what it is calling a “budget update” for 2017-18, with more money for housing, education and to tackle the overdose crisis.

The budget forecasts a surplus of $246 million. That surplus is smaller than the Liberals’ projected $295 million, because of increased spending.

The NDP government is promising a 50 per cent cut in Medical Services Plan premiums as a first step toward their elimination over four years.

$208 million has been set aside for new affordable rental housing, and there’s a $681 million increase to K-12 education funding.

There’s also $322 million to fight the fentanyl crisis.

The income tax rate increases to 16.8 per cent on taxable income over $150,000, up from 14.7 per cent.

The updated budget includes a promise to hire 3,500 teachers, but plans for a universal, $10-a-day childcare program will have to wait. The Finance Minister Carole James says that promise, and plans for a $400 subsidy for renters are still in the development stage.

The Province will increase the carbon tax rate on April 1, 2018 by $5 per tonne of CO2 equivalent emissions, while increasing the climate action tax credit to support low and middle income families. The requirement for the carbon tax to be revenue-neutral is being eliminated.

The outlook for 2017 real GDP growth is 2.9 per cent.

Minister James has presented a budget she says will make life more affordable.

Listen to her interview with NEWS 1130’s Bruce Claggett:

 

The budget includes:

  • A 50 per cent cut in Medical Services Plan premiums, as a first step toward the elimination of the premiums over the next four years;
  • $208 million for the construction of more than 1,700 new units of affordable rental housing;
  • $291 million to support the construction of 2,000 modular housing units for people that are homeless and more than $170 million over three years to provide 24/7 staffing and support services;
  • $472 million to provide an increase of $100 per month for both income and disability assistance;
  • The elimination of tolls on the Port Mann and Golden Ears bridges, which happened on September 1st;
  • A $681 million increase for our Kindergarten to Grade 12 education system over three years, including $521 million to improve classroom supports for children for up to 3,500 new teaching positions, $160 million for enrollment growth and other pressures, along with $50 million in capital funding to provide the resources needed to help all children succeed;
  • $322 million to provide a response to the fentanyl emergency, along with a new Ministry of Mental Health and Addictions, and increased law enforcement to disrupt the supply chain;
  • $189 million over three years through a federal-BC agreement to help seniors with improved home and residential care;
  • A $200 a month increase to the earnings exemption for income and disability assistance recipients to help people connect to employment;
  • Restoration of the tax benefit for credit unions;
  • A reduction in the small business corporate income tax rate from 2.5 per cent to 2 per cent;