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BC budget comes down

VICTORIA – The B.C. government’s third consecutive balanced budget builds
toward a stronger and more diversified economy and delivers additional
support to British Columbians who are most in need, Finance Minister
Michael de Jong announced today.

Balanced Budget 2015 forecasts a surplus of $879 million in 2014-15, with
further surpluses forecast in all three years of the fiscal plan:
* $284 million in 2015-16
* $376 million in 2016-17
* $399 million in 2017-18

The BC Government says fiscal discipline that has achieved balanced budgets three years
running provides room for modest investments that strengthen and
encourage growth in key economic sectors, sustain core public services,
and make life a little easier for families and those in need.

Budget 2015 invests new funding over three years to support and
strengthen economic growth across the province. Key measures include:
* Continued tax credits and $6.3 million in new base-budget funding to
support B.C.’s mining industry, to continue improvements to permitting
and regulatory oversight including increased mine inspections.
* $25 million over three years to implement the new Water Sustainability
Act, which will be in force in 2016.
* Transitional incentives over three years to encourage the B.C. cement
industry to adopt cleaner fuels and further lower emission intensity.
* Extending the Interactive Digital Media tax credit to 2018 and
expanding the Digital Animation or Visual Effects (DAVE) tax credit to
include post-production film activities to help keep B.C.’s film and
video game industries healthy.
* Helping ensure B.C. businesses can take advantage of Canada’s access to
the renminbi financial market.
* Partnering with the marine shipping industry to re-establish the
International Maritime Centre to help attract more shipping companies and
their head offices to Vancouver.

Effective September 1, 2015, child support payments will be fully
exempted from income assistance calculations. This translates into an
additional $32 million over three years for some of the neediest children
and families in the province. This change will benefit approximately
5,400 children in 3,200 families who currently receive income and
disability assistance.

Budget 2015 also provides:
* $106 million in additional funding over three years for Community
Living B.C.
* $20 million in additional funding for income assistance programs.
* $5 million to enhance the B.C. tax reduction credit, allowing
individuals to earn more than $19,000 a year before paying any provincial
income tax.
* $3 million for a new children’s fitness equipment tax credit, allowing
families to claim up to $250 a year for equipment costs; this is in
addition to the existing $500 children’s fitness and arts tax credit.

Approximately 180,000 families will begin receiving the B.C. Early
Childhood Tax Benefit starting April 1, 2015. It provides up to $660 a
year for each child under the age of six, to help with the cost of child
care. The cost of this program will be $146 million annually beginning in
2015-16. Also available starting this year is the Training and Education
Savings grant – a one-time payment of $1,200 for every child resident in
B.C. who was born since January 1, 2007. As many as 40,000 children may
be eligible every year, once they turn six.

According to the Finance Minister the budget reaffirms the B.C. government’s commitment to health care with an increase of almost $3 billion to the Ministry of Health over three
years. Additional funding will support hospice services for children and
adults. The Province also intends to provide up to $12.5 million to the
Canadian Cancer Society towards establishing a world-class cancer
prevention centre in Vancouver.

Kindergarten to Grade 12 education will receive additional funding of
$564 million over three years as government meets its funding commitments
for collective agreements negotiated in this sector – including a 33%
increase to the Learning Improvement Fund.

Budget 2015 will also invest $10.7 billion in new capital projects over
the coming three years, helping deliver core services and create jobs
across B.C. Investments over the coming three years include:
* $2.1 billion in post-secondary education, skills and trades training
capital spending, including: Emily Carr University of Art + Design
Campus; replacement of trades buildings at Okanagan College; renewal and
replacement of the trades facility at Camosun College; new facility for
the Vancouver Community College and British Columbia Institute of
Technology for heavy-duty/commercial transportation trades programs;
trades facility at the Nicola Valley Institute of Technology; and funding
for new equipment to modernize and increase capacity to support in-demand
priority programs.
* $1.6 billion in K-12 education investments, including: Centennial
Secondary, Coquitlam; Oak Bay Secondary, Oak Bay; Kitsilano Secondary,
Vancouver; Wellington Secondary, Nanaimo; and Clayton North Secondary,
* $2.9 billion in transportation investments, including: Evergreen Line
Rapid Transit, Coquitlam; Cariboo Connector; Hwy. 1: Mountain Hwy.
Interchange, North Vancouver.
* $2.7 billion in health infrastructure, including: Children and Women’s
Hospital – Phase 1 and 2, Vancouver; North Island Hospitals, Comox Valley
and Campbell River; Interior Heart and Surgical Centre, Kelowna.

The surpluses forecasted in each year of the fiscal plan help keep
taxpayer-supported debt affordable. Total taxpayer-supported debt will
rise by $3.7 billion between 2014 and 2018, as operating surpluses and
balance sheet management help offset taxpayer-supported capital spending.
Over the three-year fiscal plan, direct operating debt, which increased
due to deficits during the global economic downturn, is forecast to
decline by more than 50% from $10.2 billion to $4.8 billion – the lowest
level since 1991. Government’s taxpayer-supported debt-to-GDP ratio, a
key measure of affordability, improves in each year of the fiscal plan
and in 2017-18 is forecast at 16.6%.

The independent British Columbia Economic Forecast Council forecasts
provincial real GDP growth to be 2.6% in 2015, 2.8% in 2016 and an
average of 2.5% over 2017-2019. Government’s economic growth forecast is
2.3% in 2015, 2.4% in 2016, and 2.3% in 2017 – a forecast that is prudent
relative to the Economic Forecast Council.

(BC Government)

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