Finance Minister Carole James (Black Press files)

B.C. budget surplus expected to keep growing, Carole James says

Economic growth, strong employment pushes surplus forecast to $669 million

Increased tax revenues and steady economic growth have tripled the size of B.C.’s budget forecast for 2018-19, as changes made by the NDP government begin to show their effects on the province’s books.

Finance Minister Carole James released the first quarter financial results for the province Friday, projecting a surplus that has jumped to $669 million for the fiscal year ending next March.

The red-hot urban B.C. real estate market is “moderating,” resulting in declining revenue to the province, James said. The revenue fell by $53 million during the first quarter, from April through June, resulting in a projected drop of $250 million for the entire year.

That was more than made up by a projected increase of more than $1 billion in income tax revenue. Natural resource revenue is also projected to be up $495 million, mainly due to record high lumber prices.

Projected expenses are also up more than $1 billion, led by forest fire costs now estimated to be $477 for the current year. Emergency efforts for flooding also rose $162 million compared to the forecasts in the February budget.

James said the province’s employment picture continues to be the strongest in the country, helping drive the increase in income tax revenue. The threat is that people can get jobs but can’t find a place to live.

“If we don’t have affordable housing, people won’t stay in the province,” James said.

B.C. Liberal leader Andrew Wilkinson said the first quarter results are looking backward, and looking forward things are not so good.

“The NDP inherited a $2.7 billion surplus and the strongest economy in Canada, and now they’re projecting a slowing of growth, a 20 per cent drop in housing starts, which is a formula for widespread unemployment,” Wilkinson said. “And since they took office, the only job growth has been in government, with 10,000 new public sector jobs, and in the meantime 25,000 people in the private sector have lost their jobs.”

Another worry is trade, with the U.S. government threatening to pull out of the North American Free Trade Agreement and uncertainty continuing over lumber and other exports to the U.S.

RELATED: Trump, Trudeau mull walking away from NAFTA

One of the NDP government’s measures that has not yet shown up on the books is the introduction of an employers’ health tax on public and private payrolls over $500,000.

RELATED: Payroll, speculation tax tops B.C. municipal agenda

James reiterated that municipalities will not be getting a break on the new tax, which comes on top of reduced employee Medical Services Plan fees for 2019, before MSP premiums are phased out.

“Yes, they have a challenge in 2019, but we believe the benefit … of eliminating medical services premiums far outweigh the one-year challenge that they face,” James said.


@tomfletcherbc
tfletcher@blackpress.ca

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Just Posted

Surrey wants BNSF to slow Crescent trains

Mayor Linda Hepner said ‘it’s the least we can do’

Rail-safety forum planned for White Rock this Friday

Event to include municipal, federal, provincial governments

White Rock open house to discuss city’s aquifer protection plan

Examination of potential hazards includes increased population, climate change

‘Connecting Threads’ and more in Surrey Art Gallery’s fall shows

Free admission at opening reception and panel discussion Sunday afternoon

SFU unveils new lab at Surrey Memorial Hospital

Combination of MRI, MEG allows for ‘best possible windows’ intro brain function

B.C. RCMP turn to Const. Scarecrow to shock speeders into slowing down

New addition will watch over drivers from a Coquitlam median for first-of-its-kind pilot in Canada

B.C. home to 1/3 of Canada’s overdose deaths in first 3 months of the year

There were 1,036 overdose deaths in the first three months of the year, with 94 per cent accidental

B.C. candidate moves from hospice care to council race

He beat terminal cancer twice and entered hospice when he decided to run for council.

Canadian tobacco exec pushes back against vaping health concerns

A warning from Interior Health about the unknown health risks of vaping is getting a partial rebuke

New ‘meowyoral’ race featuring felines announced by B.C. animal shelter

Organizers hope the cat election will generate attention for shelter and local municipal election

Ministry of Agriculture commits $300,000 to help B.C. farmers obtain land

B.C. Land Matching Program supports access to affordable farmland for young farmers

Canadian air force short 275 pilots

Attrition outpaces recruitment and training claims Air Force

Teacher suspended after physically shushing, saying ‘shut up’ to student

Grade 5 student reported feeling ‘confused and a little scared’

A B.C. society helps to reforest Crown land after wildfires

Forest Enhancement Society of BC focuses on wildfire mitigation and the reforestation

Most Read