Last month, our government released our fifth consecutive balanced budget. I’m proud to report that Balanced Budget 2017 highlights what is possible when we manage our finances and grow our economy, and that includes putting money back into the wallets of British Columbians.
We believe it’s important to give back to British Columbians when government has a surplus, which is why we have taken the important first step to eliminating MSP premiums. This year’s budget starts the process, cutting premiums by 50 per cent for households with a net income of up to $120,000 a year. For families paying full premiums, this could mean savings of up to $900 a year; for individuals, up to $450.
About two million British Columbians will benefit from this change – including families, individuals and seniors. Thanks to our careful financial management, this cut will not mean higher taxes in other areas. Instead, British Columbians will be able to keep $953 million more of their hard-earned money to spend however they choose.
A strong economy and fiscal discipline also make it possible to care for the ones we love. Balanced Budget 2017 does just that, expanding services for our children and our seniors. With nearly $3 billion in new investments for priority areas, this year’s budget takes action on K-12 education, child care, housing affordability and youth mental health. With $4.2 billion added to the Ministry of Health budget over three years, all British Columbians will benefit from better healthcare.
We’re taking action on housing affordability and as part of that, Budget 2017 includes an additional $159 million to maintain rental assistance programs for low-income families and seniors. Each year, rental assistance programs help support over 33,000 households – helping make rent more affordable in the private market. Work is underway to create nearly 5,300 units of affordable and supportive housing, and we have committed $700 million in funding for the BC HOME Partnership Program to help first-time home buyers overcome the hurdle of saving for a down payment.
Balanced Budget 2017 wouldn’t be possible without British Columbians who have worked so hard for our province’s success. With improved programs and services – and more money in their pockets – I’m excited for all British Columbians to experience the possibilities of Balanced Budget 2017.
Eric Foster is Vernon-Monashee MLA.