B.C.’s just-released budget follows through on the BC Liberals’ promise to provide a balanced budget.
To achieve that, the government has announced new measures to raise revenues, including:
- sales of provincial properties and assets, forecast to generate $625 million;
- raising corporate taxes to 11% from 10%; and
- a 4% increase to Medical Services Plan premiums next January.
The budget is drawing moderate support from business groups but also triggering concern, notably from health-care workers.
The government’s budget states that “savings and efficiencies” in health-care spending will contain spending growth at the Ministry of Health to an annual average of 2.6%.
The Health Sciences Association of BC (HSABC), which represents 17,000 health-care workers, said the government’s plan to achieve “efficiencies” is code for healthcare service cuts.
“Government is counting on restructuring the delivery of lab services, and containing physician and drug costs to reduce the health care budget,” said Reid Johnson, president of the HSABC. “Based on vague ideas about how that might result in savings, they’re telling British Columbians that direct health care services won't suffer. It just doesn't add up.”
The Hospital Employees’ Union said that planned health spending for the fiscal year 2013-14, announced last year, was reduced by $234 million in today’s budget.
The Canadian Taxpayers Federation (CTF) has also lambasted the government for what it calls “a hat-trick of tax hikes,” which it says undermines the good news of a balanced budget.
The CTF is decrying the corporate tax hike, an increase in personal income taxes for anyone making more than $150,000 a year and the sixth increase in MSP premiums in five years.
“These taxes hurt families by making it more expensive to live here and for businesses to set up shop and employ people,” said Jordan Bateman, the CTF’s B.C. director. “Coming on the heels of a return to PST, the creation of good jobs will slow.”