Interest Groups Weigh in on Provincial Budget
Prince George, B.C. – There’s been a flood of reaction to today’s provincial budget.
As 250News reported earlier this afternoon, it includes a plan to cut Medical Services Plan premiums in half for households with annual net incomes of up to $120,000.
Finance Minister Mike de Jong also announced that the small business tax will be reduced from 2.5 per cent to two per cent and that the Ministry of Health will see a three-year increase of $4.2 billion, compared to is 2016-17. For more details on the budget click here.
The Council of Forest Industries (COFI) was happy the Province put forth is fifth consecutive budget and that it included some tax relief.
“We are pleased to see the PST on electricity will be phased out over the next two years,” said president and CEO Susan Yurkovich. “This tax relief is critically important for forest-dependent communities in B.C. Reducing taxes frees up capital to be spent in facilities around the province.”
Meanwhile the Canadian Taxpayers Federation also praised the budget and its planned cut to MSP premiums noting it will save families with two kids making $45,000 to $120,000 per year $900 a year.
“For a middle-class family, $75 a month is going to be a big help,” said CTF BC director Jordan Bateman. “This is the signature tax cut of Christy Clark’s six years as premier – in fact, it’s the first true, broad-based provincial tax cut we’ve seen since 2007.”
But the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives was decidedly less impressed with the MSP announcement.
Senior economist Iglika Ivanova said while the tax will help some families, the government could have reduced MSP and tweaked the mix of business taxes without sacrificing much-needed public revenues.
“It’s a concern that the MSP cut eliminates nearly $1 billion of revenue every year. If these revenues were replaced with fairer taxes, they could have been used to tackle unmet needs in our health care system, increase staffing in seniors’ nursing homes, and fund more hours of home support or boosted mental health supports.”
The Wilderness Committee was also critical of the budget, arguing it “provides band-aid solutions for the environment and climate.”
“While the government talks a big game on climate change, our increasing emissions and support for industries like fracking tell a different story,” said spokesperson Torrance Coste. “The government continues to treat this crisis like a minor inconvenience rather than the challenge of our time.”
Locally, the Prince George Chamber of Commerce was pleased, with CEO Christie Ray noting the budget was not only balanced but that it also offered her members some tax relief.
For example, she noted she’s excited about the MSP cut and said the drop in the small business tax will save B.C. businesses $213 million over three years.
“It frees up money to do other things, like reinvesting in their businesses or hiring extra workers.”
UNBC political science lecturer Jason Morris said with cuts to MSP and extra money for things like education it seemed the BC Liberals may have been trying to cut into traditional “NDP turf” prior to this May’s provincial election.
“We can consider whether that’s electioneering at this stage but it would seem to be a far cry from the earlier BC Liberals we knew from back in 2001 with a much stronger, New Era, document.”