BC Finance Minister Michael de Jong released the provincial budget for 2017 on Tuesday.
For the fifth time running, this was a balanced budget, with a projected surplus of $295 million. That number is expected to drop over the next three years due to new additional spending announced today.
Here are a few highlights of British Columbia’s 2017-18 budget:
MSP premiums cut in half with plans to eliminate
Medical Service Premiums will be cut starting Jan. 1, 2018, by 50 per cent for households with annual net income up to $120,000, leaving a typical family of four paying $900 a year less next year. The intent is to end MSP premiums completely at some point.
Ministry of Children and Family Development
The province will inject an additional $287 million over three years tThe Ministry of Children and Family Development, including $120 million to address recommendations in a report on indigenous child welfare, after the death of children in government care.
$740-million in education funding on the way
Education spending will increase by $740 million over three years, with $320 million of that total to cover the costs of ongoing negotiations with the teachers’ union after the province lost a Supreme Court of Canada decision on class size related to special-needs children.
Provincial sales tax on electricity for business will be eliminated over the next two years, saving $164 million by 2019-20.
The small business corporate income tax rate will be reduced to two per cent from 2.5 per cent.
The province is increasing the property transfer tax threshold to $500,000 of the fair market value for first-time homebuyers saving up to $8,000 in property transfer tax on the purchase of their first home.
New health funding
Finance Minister Mike de Jong says the province will add $875-million to the Ministry of Health budget, bring the new total of $18.8-billion, nearly 40 per cent of the entire budget. $200-million of next year’s increase is planned for wages for nurses and doctors.
The interest rate on student loans is being lowered from prime plus 2.5% to just prime, from August 1, 2017. Prime is currently 2.7%.
De Jong announced $87 million for an enhanced provincial technology strategy. Details will be announced at the upcoming BC Tech Summit in March.
The province plans to open more than 1,900 extra campsites, mostly within existing parks, over the next three years.
Amid the ongoing fentanyl crisis, the province is promising an extra $4.2 billion over the next three years for mental health and substance abuse services, especially for young people.