Saskatchewan’s Finance Minister, Donna Harpauer, has delivered a budget that was not only balanced, but included a slight surplus of $34.4 million. Titled “The Right Balance,” Budget 2019-20 contains no new taxes or tax increases and it balances much-needed investments with carefully managed spending in order to achieve a balanced budget that is affordable and sustainable.

The balanced budget is the result of a three-year, back-to-balance promise. While the budget projects a surplus of $34.4 million this year, higher surpluses of $49 million, $72 million and $84 million are projected for the three fiscal years that follow. The government’s operational debt will not increase in 2019-20. Revenue is forecast at $15.03 billion, up about $782 million, or 5.5 per cent, compared to last year’s budget. Expense of $14.99 billion is projected, up from the previous year’s budget by $382 million, or 2.6 per cent.

Here are highlights of the Provincial Budget 2019-20:

Health

  • Total investment in health in 2019-20 is projected to be $5.89 billion, an increase of $123 million, or 2.1 per cent, compared to last year’s budget.
  • Increased operating funding to the Saskatchewan Health Authority to $3.6 billion, up more than $113 million, or 3.2 per cent, compared to last year.
  • Funding for targeted mental health and addictions initiatives is increasing by nearly $30 million in this budget to a total of nearly $402 million.
  • $700,000 increase for the Autism Individualized Funding benefit, increasing the benefit from $4,000 to $6,000 per year for children under age six.
  • Funding for the pre-construction design of a new Victoria Hospital in Prince Albert, and planning for a new hospital in Weyburn.

Seniors

  • Investing to replace the Northland Pioneers Lodge in Meadow Lake, fulfilling the government’s commitment to replace 13 long-term care facilities for seniors across the province.
  • Increased home care support to help people stay safely in their homes as long as possible through the Connected Care program.
  • $1.1 million—an increase of more than $660,000—to the Alzheimer Society for the First Link program.

Social Services

  • $1.43 billion investment in social services and assistance, an increase of $51.4 million, or 3.7 per cent, compared to last year.
  • More than $27 million to support at-risk children and families.
  • Community-based organizations and those who deliver services to children and families and provide support for people with intellectual disabilities will receive an additional $5.9 million in 2019-20.
  • $6.6 million increase in support for adults with intellectual disabilities, and $1.4 million has been designated to increase monthly payments for foster families who complete training.

Education

  • Investing in children’s education—$3.28 billion in total, up more than $19 million compared to last year.
  • Saskatchewan’s school divisions will receive $1.9 billion in operating funding for the 2019-20 school year, an increase of more than $26 million year over year.
  • More than $72 million for child care, enabling the provision of more than 16,700 child care spaces across the province. That’s an increase of 7,000 spaces since 2007-08.
  • Funding for the Ministry of Advanced Education exceeds $727 million in the 2019-20 Budget. More than $672 million of that amount will go toward operating and capital grants for Saskatchewan’s post-secondary institutions—including nearly.

Communities and Community Safety

  • To improve safety at highway intersections, the 2019-20 Budget provides $13 million as the first step of a five-year, $65 million Enhanced Intersection Safety Program that will improve signage, sight lines and lighting and add safety features like rumble strips at intersections throughout the province.
  • More than $60 million for twinning and passing lane projects. Overall, the budget provides funding to improve about 1,000 kilometres of the highway network in 2019-20.
  • More than $15 million to continue funding 128 municipal police positions and targeted policing initiatives across the province.
  • A $1.1 million increase has been designated for drug-impaired driving detection training for police.
  • More than $251 million in municipal revenue sharing, a $10.5 million increase compared to last year.
  • More than $437 million in direct provincial support to municipalities from multiple ministries across government—an increase of $25.4 million or 6.2 per cent compared to last year.
  • $211 million in targeted investment that will benefit First Nations and Métis people, communities, businesses, and organizations, a 4.7 per cent increase compared to last year.
  • An increase of $2.25 million, for a total of $27 million, to help deliver the SARCAN Beverage Container Collection and Recycling Program.

Tax Changes

  • • New, non-refundable tax credits for volunteer firefighters and volunteer medical first responders who serve to protect and help Saskatchewan people when they need it most. Beginning with the 2020 taxation year, individuals with at least 200 hours of volunteer service in a year will be able to claim a $3,000 tax credit.
  • • Measures that will ensure the people of Saskatchewan receive a fair and balanced return for their potash. The base payment component of the Potash Production Tax is intended to provide a simple flat payment per tonne of potash sales. However, it has gradually been eroded by currently allowable deductions. To address this, effective April 1, the calculation of the Potash Production Tax will be simplified by eliminating these deductions.

While the private sector was likely looking for more initiatives related to the cannabis sector, the only mention the government made in regards to cannabis is the tax revenue. A total of $5 million of new revenue related to cannabis taxation is included in the budget, including $3 million of excise tax in the Other taxes category and $2 million of Provincial Sales Tax revenue.

The NDP’s response was that today’s provincial budget fails to live up to its only promise: balance. Finance critic, Trent Wotherspoon, said that, “They’ve tripled the debt, doubled the PST, flattened the economy, and left students without the supports they need.” As they said in the days leading up to today’s budget, the NDP had hoped to see more supports for young people, families, seniors, the North, and First Nations & Métis people.

The Right Balance budget appears to be a blend of controlled spending with priority investments into needed infrastructure. This is the second budget from the Scott Moe-led Saskatchewan Party government, and we can definitely see his presence and priorities throughout the budget as they focus on investing in health, education, and social services.

As Saskatchewan gets closer to the next provincial election, scheduled for October 26, 2020, it is not surprising that this budget is one of muted expectations. Having gone through a three-year period of austerity budgets, it will be the next budget (2020-21) where the purse strings will be loosened, thus allowing the Sask Party government to deliver some pre-election spending to shore up their election chances.

Overall, Budget 2019-20 is the kind of budget we have come to expect from a Saskatchewan Party government – not too flashy and very practical.

For more information on the 2019-20 Saskatchewan Budget, please click here.

To read the government news releases about the budget, please click here.

For more information:

Hill+Knowlton Strategies Regina | 1.306.205.0494

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