The Nova Scotia government tabled its third consecutive balanced budget. Over half of the projected budget surplus will come from the taxes on cannabis sales, beginning in July 2018. There were no other tax increases or reductions.
After years of belt tightening, this year’s budget sees a 2.2% spending increase. Areas of spending focus include investments in health / mental healthcare, hospital and highway construction, early childhood education and poverty reduction. The government will also hire 89 additional full-time employees for the provincial civil service.
Announcements of $108 million to increase rural Internet connectivity and $19.6 million for a doctor recruitment and retention plan were made over the past week and thus, were included in the final numbers for last year’s budget.
RCC has consistently advocated for tax relief thus, the budget causes some concern for the retail sector. Nevertheless, the budget remains balanced and the increased investments will have some positive impacts on the local communities where retailers conduct their business.
Surplus / Debt: The projected surplus for the 2017-18 fiscal year is $23.2 million on a total budget of $10.6 billion. For 2018-19, the government is projecting a surplus of $29.4 million on a total budget of $10.8 billion. Each of these surplus numbers include a $110.3 million contribution to the multi-year redevelopment of the QEII Health Sciences Centre.
Cannabis: The government is expecting to receive $19.4 million in tax revenue from the sale of 12 million grams of recreational cannabis at $1 per gram (starting in July 2018). This will be an almost even split between a cannabis tax and the sales tax.
Red Tape Reduction: The budget keeps the government’s three-year commitment to reduce red tape by $25 million by the end of 2018.
Health Care: Spending will increase by $100 million to $4.37 billion. This represents approximately 40% of the total budget. Of note, there is an additional $5.5 million to help more seniors stay in their homes longer through the Caregiver Benefit program.
Education: The government is investing an additional $17.6 million to expand the Pre-Primary Program this year. Many RCC members are involved in the Schools Plus program, which will expand through an additional $1.6 million in funding.
- $1.7 million in additional funding to expand the Graduate to Opportunity program, which includes a larger subsidy for hiring diverse graduates and women in non-traditional careers.
- $275,000 to make the Business Navigators pilot program permanent. This program guides businesses through government regulations and compliance.
- $3 million contribution in the first year of a four-year, federal-provincial initiative to deliver more low-carbon efficiency programs, while supporting jobs in local businesses.
Accessibility: $2 million investment to help make small businesses and communities more accessible.
Public Housing: $12.4 million in additional funding will go to Housing Nova Scotia to improve public housing buildings
Roads: $60 million in additional capital spending for highways, bridges and roads. $500,000 for a new community beautification program for main streets and communities.
Innovation: $3 million for the Building Tomorrow Fund to support innovation in agriculture, fisheries and aquaculture sectors.
Tobacco Tax: Government is expecting growth in all tax revenue for 2018-19 except tobacco, which is expected to decrease by 2.7% to $272 million
Real GDP: 1.6% in 2018 and projected growth of 1% for 2019.
Net Debt: $15 billion for 2017-18.