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

BX Ranch event draws solid feedback

“The goal is to get out and talk to the residents who are actively using our parks.”

Vernon-born documentary screens at Towne Cinema

The Happiness Tour, a 10-minute mini-documentary, screens Sept. 24

UPDATE: Rear-ender closed lane on 33rd Street in Vernon

Police and ambulance responded to a two-vehicle collision on 33rd Street and 39th Avenue.

Hesketh moves from hospice care to Vernon council race

David Hesketh had beaten terminal cancer twice and had entered hospice to… Continue reading

VIDEO: Messages of hope, encouragement line bars of B.C. bridge

WARNING: This story contains references to suicide and may not be appropriate for all audiences.

Fresh-faced Flames fend off Canucks 4-1

Vancouver drops second straight NHL exhibition contest

VIDEO: B.C. deer struggles with life-preserver caught in antlers

Campbell River resident captures entangled deer on camera

Scheer pushes Trudeau to re-start Energy East pipeline talks

Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer questioned the Prime Minister over Trans Mountain project

Mistaken identity: Missing dog claimed in Moose Jaw belongs to another family

Brennen Duncan was reunited with a white Kuvasz that was found in Saskatchewan

Abandoned kitten safe and sound thanks to B.C. homeless man

‘Jay’ found little black-and-white kitten in a carrier next to a dumpster by a Chilliwack pet store

Police chief defends controversial marijuana seizure

Advocates said cannabis was part of an opioid-substitution program in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside

Trans Mountain completes Burrard Inlet spill exercise

Training required, some work continues on pipeline expansion

Supporters of B.C. man accused of murdering Belgian tourist pack courtoom

Family and friends of Sean McKenzie, 27, filled the gallery for brief court appearance in Chilliwack

Most Read