Finance Minister Graham Steele tabled the 2011-12 provincial budget today, April 5, which builds on the province's plans to make life better for families.
Key initiatives include:
— investing $42.5 million to help make post-secondary education more affordable
— opening at least four new Collaborative Emergency Centres this year
— providing tax breaks, such as an increase in the basic personal amount by $250
— reducing departmental spending by $170 million
— investing $28 million to improve business productivity
— providing $7.9 million to low-income families to help make ends meet
"This budget invests in health care, growing the economy, helping people make ends meet, all while ensuring government lives within its means," said Mr. Steele. "We still have a difficult financial situation to address, but this budget shows that we are on target to balance in 2013, as promised."
Revenues for 2011-12, excluding income from government business enterprises, are estimated at $8.5 billion, an increase of $133 million over the 2010-11 estimates.
The 2011 budget projects a deficit of $389.6 million. This is in line with the $370-million deficit anticipated in the province's four-year fiscal plan.
Total program expenses for fiscal 2011-12 are budgeted at $9.3 billion, up $323 million from 2010-11, entirely from reinstating university funding.
The 2011-12 budget will reduce the provincial tax impact on small businesses. Effective Jan. 1, 2012, government will reduce the rate of corporate income tax for small businesses to four per cent from 4.5 per cent. Last year, the rate dropped to 4.5 per cent from five per cent. These decreases represent a 20 per cent drop in the small business tax rate. Eligible small businesses can apply this rate on the first $400,000 of taxable income.
This budget also outlines changes to personal income tax, which will return $11 million to Nova Scotian taxpayers this year. Beginning Jan. 1, 2011, the Basic Personal Amount, the money people earn before they have to start paying taxes, will increase by $250. This means that Nova Scotia's basic personal amount will rise to $8,481 from $8,231.
The budget also includes the final forecast update for the fiscal year 2010-11.
For the second year in a row, the province's spending came in below estimate, the first time in 23 years that has happened. This, along with the province's better-than-expected performance through the global recession, resulted in a $447.2-million surplus for 2010-11.
"Four-hundred-and-nine point-four million dollars of the surplus has eliminated the need to borrow that amount of money to pay for infrastructure, which would have been added to Nova Scotia's net debt," said Mr. Steele. "I'm very proud to say that we will be using $37.8 million to reduce our province's net debt. This is only the seventh time in the past 50 years that this has happened."
Nova Scotia's overall debt is estimated at $13.1 billion as of March 31, almost $1 billion less than was estimated in April 2010.
Since the December 2010 fiscal update, additional appropriations totalling $23.3 million were approved for six departments and government offices. Additional appropriations are used to cover unforeseen expenses. The total additional appropriations for 2010-11 to date are $28.6 million.
For more information on the 2011-12 provincial budget, visit www.gov.ns.ca .