Expenses are estimated at $10.5 billion for a forecasted net surplus of $25.9 million.
The budget, which represents the Liberal government’s second straight year of balanced finances (the first time in almost a decade) did not introduce any new taxes.
But it does increase the basic income tax exemption for more than 500,000 Nova Scotians – effective Jan. 1, 2018 – from $8,481 to $11,481, for anyone with an annual income under $25,000. That change in the basic personal amount will mean 60,000 low-income earners will no longer pay any income tax.
“We are in the position to make new investments in infrastructure to provide more supports to youth and young families, to invest in new ideas that will create a better economy, and make investments to create healthier and stronger communities.”
Delorey laid out five priority-spending areas over the next year including:
Infrastructure: (60.5 million);
Youth and jobs: ($28.8 million);
New Ideas for a Better Economy: ($34.2 million);
Support for an Aging Population: ($16.9 million);
Healthy People and Communities: $(89.5 million).
Total revenues for this year are forecasted to be up by $322.5 million (3.1 per cent increase) from last year while total expenses are expected to be up by $370.7 million (3.7 per cent) from fiscal 2016/17).
“Our province’s finances are now healthy enough to make investments in opportunities for growth that will make Nova Scotia more prosperous,” the minister said. “It has taken hard work to get to this point, and we will work even harder to ensure all Nova Scotians benefit.”
The gross surplus was set at $136.2 million but that includes a one-time revenue increase of $110.3 million of federal and municipal contributions for the convention centre in Halifax – money to be used towards the provincial debt to provide the ability to start a multi-year development of the QEII Health Sciences Centre, therefore bringing the net surplus to $25.9 million.
Infrastructure projects include:
– previously announced plans to add four new interchanges on 100-series highways and twin three sections of 100-series highways, over a three-year period;
– new and upgraded healthcare facilities in Halifax, Dartmouth and Hants County to support the QEII development project;
– new funding for a school in Spryfield and continued funding for schools currently under construction in Bible Hill, Tatamagouche, Bridgetown, Sheet Harbour, Eastern Passage, Dartmouth, Halifax and Yarmouth.
The budget also includes $40 million for municipal, clean water and waste-water projects and $38 million for affordable housing units and improving affordable housing projects.
On the income tax front, beginning next year anyone with a taxable income under $25,000 will be eligible for the full basic personal exemption of $11,481.
That benefit decreases at a declining rate up to a taxable income of $75,000. The maximum amount an individual can benefit under the new basic personal deduction is $263 per year. The average anticipated amount is about $160.
In his address, Delorey said the province finished the last fiscal year with a surplus of $40.8 million, which was $23.7 million higher than the original estimate of $17.1 million.
Total revenue was up by $16 million (0.2 per cent) while expenses were down by $0.6 million (0.01 per cent).
The total forecasted revenue for this year is estimated to be up by $322.5 million (3.1 per cent) over last year.
Total expenses are pegged at an increase of 3.1 per cent over last year.
Effective to Jan. 1 of this year, the small business tax threshold for the small business tax was increased by three per cent from $350,000 to $500,000. The estimated cost of that move is $13.9 million and is expected to benefit more than 1,800 small businesses.
“This budget makes investments in infrastructure across the province, making sure Nova Scotians have safe highways, modern schools and health-care facilities and more affordable housing options,” Delorey said.
And, in addition to contributing to stronger, healthier communities, “these investments will also mean jobs throughout the province and provide more opportunities for people to live and work here.”
The Liberals’ budget puts one more piece in place, as Nova Scotians get in the mindset for a looming provincial election, with speculation the call could come within days.
More to follow…