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Finance Minister James presents balanced budget this year

Finance Minister Carole James gives a presentation on the provincial budget for the 2018/19 fiscal year to the media in February. Photo by Government of British Columbia/Flickr
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VICTORIA, B.C. — B.C. Finance Minister Carole James delivered the Province’s budget for 2018 in the Legislature today, saying the government plans to run a surplus of $219 million this year.

In the NDP’s first full budget since ousting the BC Liberals last June, James announced that the government will be making the areas of childcare and housing affordability as its top priority. James said the government will introduce a new affordable child-care benefit that will reduce child-care costs by up to $1,250 per month for every child and support 86,000 families per year by 2020-21. Up to $350 per month will be provided directly to licensed childcare providers to reduce fees for an estimated 50,000 families per year by 2020-21.

“Budgets are not only about the bottom line, they should be about people. That’s why British Columbians are at the centre of every choice we have made in Budget 2018,” said James. “These include historic investments in child care and affordable housing that will be felt for generations.”

The Finance Minister said the provincial economy experienced stronger than previously forecast economic growth last year. Because of that performance, James said her Ministry now forecasts the economy will grow by 3.4 percent this year, up from the 2.9 percent estimated last fall. The government plans to run a series of surpluses over the next three years, though only by small margins.

This year’s budget projects a surplus of $219 million, rising to $281 million next year, and $284 million by 2020. James said the government has implemented a forecast allowance of $350 million in 2018-19, $500 million in 2019-20 and $600 million in 2020-21. The Province will also have a contingency of $550 million this year, $750 million next year, and $750 million in 2020-21.

After continuing the promise by the previous Liberal government one year ago that MSP premiums would be reduced by 50 percent starting this year, the government announced that MSP premiums would be eliminated by January 1st, 2020. Revenue from the premiums, which totalled $2.6 billion last year, will be replaced by an employer health payroll tax.

Businesses with a payroll of more than $1.5 million, will pay a tax rate of 1.95 percent on their total payroll, businesses with a payroll between $500,000 and $1.5 million will pay a reduced tax rate, while small businesses with payrolls lower than $500,000 will not pay any tax. The new employer health tax is forecast by the government to bring in $1.9 billion per year starting next year.

The entire 2018 Budget can be read here: http://bcbudget.gov.bc.ca/2018/bfp/2018_Budget_and_Fiscal_Plan.pdf

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