The provincial government released its 2018-19 budget yesterday, and many were quick to point out the document’s strengths and shortfalls.
We’ve collected some of them below. All of the reactions below are taken from statements and press releases sent out by the organizations.
Saskatchewan Association of Rural Municipalities (SARM):
“(SARM) is pleased that the 2018 Provincial Budget will maintain funding that benefits rural municipalities in several key areas.
SARM is satisfied to learn that the Municipal Roads for the Economy Program (MREP) will maintain funding at $14 million and will not face any additional funding cuts. Over $900 million in funding is allocated to the Ministry of Highways and Infrastructure. This is good news for RMs and agriculture producers as maintaining the highway system is critical for transporting goods to market and for maintaining public safety.
The roll out of funding for the Protection and Response Team will enhance the Rural Crime Strategy in the province. SARM has been working with the Government of Saskatchewan and the RCMP to ensure that rural crime is appropriately addressed.
SARM is appreciative of the $2.85 million allocated to the agricultural programs administered by SARM. This funding will ensure that RMs are able to access important programs to deal with invasive plants and problem beavers
Saskatchewan Government Employees Union (SGEU):
“This year’s hold-the line budget does not begin to undo the harm done to Saskatchewan families and communities by the disastrous 2017-18 budget, according to SGEU president Bob Bymoen.
‘While we welcome the news that no one in the provincial public service will be losing their job as a direct result of this budget, we need to bear in mind that future job loss through attrition will result in understaffing and gaps in services. We also need to remember the government workforce has sustained devastating cuts over the last decade.’”
“Saskatchewan families are getting more of the same from rookie Premier Scott Moe: public service cuts and reckless disregard for the province’s most vulnerable residents.
“’Scott Moe’s imagination doesn’t go beyond cutting services and experimenting with privatization,’ said Jerry Dias, Unifor National President. ‘It’s simply more of the same and more suffering ahead for Saskatchewan families trying to make ends meet.’
The budget doesn’t fully restore previous cuts to education, slashes student aid, cuts funding for cities, and contains no investments in Saskatchewan’s prized Crown corporations.”
Saskatchewan School Boards Assocaition (SSBA)
We are pleased that Premier Scott Moe is committed to keeping the promise from his leadership campaign and the government has restored some funding for education,” said Dr. Shawn Davidson, president of the Saskatchewan School Boards Association. “Premier Moe said that education must be a top priority and we thank him and Minister of Education Gordon Wyant for their reprioritization of support for our province’s students.
“However, we know the funding announced today only goes so far in terms of meeting the pressures being faced in classrooms across Saskatchewan,” Davidson continued. “We also need to ensure predictable and sustainable funding is in place to support innovation and improvement in the system for many years to come.”
School boards have been calling for restored and renewed investment after funding for education was cut significantly in the provincial budget for the previous year, 2017-18. The funding announced in the 2018-19 budget will improve the ability of boards to address pressures facing school division operations, but continued growth and inflation means funding levels remain concerning.
Canadian Taxpayers Federation (CTF)
The Canadian Taxpayers Federation (CTF) is applauding the Saskatchewan government’s 2018 budget that’s on track to deliver a small operational surplus next year.
“We can’t leave our bills for our kids and grand-kids to pay off and this budget stays on track to balance the operational budget next year,” said Todd MacKay, the CTF’s Prairie Director.
This year the operational deficit is estimated at $365 million which is projected to turn into a $6-million surplus next year.
Overall spending is down by 1.4 per cent due largely to reduced cost projections for pension liabilities.
“Every government that slays a deficit has done it by trimming spending,” said MacKay. “The Saskatchewan government got some good luck with reduced pension cost projections, but it’s using that reduction to reduce the deficit rather than increasing spending and that’s the right way to go.”
One low note in the budget is that promised cuts to personal income taxes are suspended which will cost taxpayers about $120 million this year.
We’re seeing more of the same shortsightedness in this budget as the debt continues to pile on, funding for education still hasn’t been restored to 2016 levels and Saskatchewan people are paying more but getting less.
“When Saskatchewan people look at this budget, they will wonder where is the inspiration? Where is the hope? Where is the leadership? What this budget shows is that Saskatchewan is being kept in a railway siding, meanwhile the debt is on track to triple since 2008 and there is no investment in prosperity,” said NDP Finance Critic Cathy Sproule.
Sproule was encouraged that the Sask. Party finally listened to calls that the NDP had been making to fund HIV medication and autism supports. However, she noted that the cut to the housing rental supplement and the lack of investment in early learning and childcare will hurt the province’s most vulnerable.
This budget saw a drop in infrastructure funding and changes to municipal grants in lieu, which means that cities and towns throughout the province will be forced to have their citizens pay more.
Saskatchewan Heavy Construction Association (SHCA)
If you want to be rich, first build a road.
The phrase is popular among the Chinese business community, though the Saskatchewan Heavy Construction Association (SHCA) wished the Saskatchewan Party adopted that same mentality when it considered its 2018 budget for the Ministry of Highways and Infrastructure.
Outlined in the budget, which was unveiled Tuesday, was a $924.5-million total budget for the ministry. Capital projects will see $673 million, and the Regina Bypass will receive $330 million.
Shantel Lipp, president of the SHCA, said there is little to no change from the 2017 budget, something that carries good and not so good connotations.
“We anticipated that it was going to be a modest budget,” Lipp admitted. “There’s not a lot of growth, but they didn’t pull back on any projects they committed to.”
For the past eight years, the provincial government has maintained its commitment to the Ministry of Highways and Infrastructure and this year is no exception. However, the opportunity was missed to provide a boost to a previously sluggish economy that is showing signs of growth.
“If we do want to continue to grow our economy and we want to be able to get our products to market, these investments in roads and highways needs to be maintained. It is critical that is maintained,” Lipp said.
Saskatchewan Urban Municipality Association (SUMA)
The Saskatchewan Urban Municipalities Association (SUMA) is relieved to see that today’s provincial budget is maintaining support for Saskatchewan hometowns.
In today’s budget, the provincial government is reinstating the SaskEnergy municipal surcharge to 109 of our municipalities who saw it cut last year. The surcharge will also be extended to all Saskatchewan cities, towns and villages.
“We appreciate the return of SaskEnergy funding to our 109 municipalities that lost out last year,” said SUMA President Gordon Barnhart. “This funding helps our municipalities provide instrumental services.”
Revenue sharing related to PST is set to decrease from last year as expected. SUMA welcomes the opportunity for an open discussion with the provincial government on the future of the revenue sharing program.
“We didn’t get all that we hoped for, but we understand that the province is facing tough economic times,” said Barnhart. “We look forward to continuing in an open consultation process.”
With a sharply lower deficit this year and a balanced budget on the horizon next year the Association of Saskatchewan REALTORS® welcomed the provincial government’s 2018-19 budget.
CEO Bill Madder also welcomed new incentives for investment in high tech and agricultural processing.
“Growth must be our top priority; everything else depends on a strong economy. We support the commitment to sound finances and taxation because they are essential to encourage investment and new jobs.”
Mr. Madder said he hopes the government will continue the strategy begun last year, of shifting taxes to favour growth. “We strongly encourage the government to continue further reduction in income taxes.”
Growth will help the Saskatchewan housing market, which is suffering in part because of changes the federal government made to mortgage rules, and because of hold-ups in new capacity to export our resources and farm products