BC Liberals raise taxes to balance budget

BC Finance Minister Mike de Jong



VANCOUVER - The BC Liberals want to raise taxes on the province's wealthiest citizens, and hike MSP premiums and cigarette prices in a pre-election budget the government claims is balanced.

Finance Minister Mike de Jong laid out the province's financial plan on Tuesday in Victoria with a projected budget surplus of $197 million in 2013-14.

The budget contained $327-million worth of tax increases, with a proposed two-year increase in the personal income tax rate for individuals earning more than $150,000 a year. If the budget is passed, the provincial tax rate will go up 2.1% for these high earners to 16.8% a year. The budget also increases the general corporate income tax rate by 1%. Smokers will see the price of cigarette cartons set to go up by $2 each.

The budget calls for a 4% increase in MSP premiums that could cost families around $5 or $6 more a month.

"When the health-care budget is increasing over three years by $2.4 billion, asking for an additional $5 or $6 is not easy," de Jong said.

Jordan Bateman of the Canadian Taxpayers Federation criticized the tax increases.

"The biggest problem for taxpayers is the hat trick of tax increases we have seen," said Bateman. "MSP (has) the sixth increase we have seen in five years. I don't understand how it works with their jobs plan. They want to create jobs but they want to rob BC of more of their economic competitiveness."

De Jong said budget savings came from a review of how government departments and agencies do work. The budget detailed almost $1.1 billion in savings over the next three years. Most of the savings have been found in the province's department of health.

BC NDP finance critic Bruce Ralston said there is no indication of how the government plans to cut $235 million from the Ministry of Health.

"(It's) a pre-election budget, not a balanced budget," he said. "(It) doesn't really address the needs of British Columbians."

The BC Liberals plan to sell off $625 million in government property over two years to help balance the budget, Finance Minister Mike De Jong said Tuesday.

The plan was immediately panned.

"This government should not sell one single stick of land before May 14," BC Federation of Labour head Jim Sinclair said. "This is not a balanced budget and if they are going to balance (it) by selling the assets of British Columbian, at least they should wait to get the judgment of British Columbians."

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