Higher taxes, relief for farmers highlight Liberal budget
The B.C. Liberals’ pre-election budget proposes to implement income tax increases on business and higher-income individuals, similar to proposals from the NDP opposition.
The corporate income tax rate would rise one point to 11 per cent effective April 1, accelerating by a year an increase announced in 2012. NDP leader Adrian Dix has repeatedly promised to increase the corporate rate to 12 per cent, where it was in 2008.
In Finance Minister Mike de Jong’s budget, tabled Tuesday, personal income taxes for those earning $150,000 or more would rise 2.1 per cent to 16.8 per cent for two years, starting next January. That increase is to be rolled back to the current rate of 14.7 per cent in 2015, de Jong said.
Dix has indicated that if the NDP forms government, he would impose an income tax increase for those earning $150,000 or more a year, with specifics promised in the NDP election platform.
De Jong stressed that B.C.’s personal income tax rates are still the lowest in Canada for those earning up to $122,000 a year.
With a provincial election set for May 14, this budget will not be passed by the time the brief legislature session ends in late March. Its measures are part of a campaign platform for Clark’s government, and the winner of the election must pass a budget in the fall.
Delta South independent MLA Vicki Huntington has joined the other Independent MLAs to push for moving the fixed election to October, starting 2017, to allow legislators to fully review the budget before an election and prevent partisan influence on the process.
She described the proposed budget as a moderate change of direction for the BC Liberals, correcting two long-standing policy oversights affecting agriculture.
“Carbon tax relief for farmers and a return in funding to the Agricultural Land Commission are two announcements today that will be warmly welcomed by the agricultural community in Delta South,” she said Wednesday.
De Jong announced a permanent, 80 per cent deduction on the carbon tax for greenhouse industry and agricultural gasoline will soon be carbon tax exempt for farmers.
The proposed budget also sees a funding boost of close to $1 million to the Agricultural Land Commission.
De Jong’s projections call for spending to increase by 1.5 per cent overall in the coming three years, with health care spending increases of 2.3, 2.7 and 2.2 per cent over the same period.
“This is not enough even to maintain existing health care services, given the cost of population growth and inflation, not to mention what’s needed to make needed improvements,” said Debra McPherson, president of the B.C. Nurses’ Union. “As a result, health authorities will be forced to continue jamming hospital patients into offices, lounges and other areas not designed for patient care, as well as using hallways to take up the slack.”
De Jong argued that the government has already established a track record of containing the rise of health care funding in recent years. His budget also adds a four per cent increase in Medical Services Plan premiums to take effect next January, the latest in a series of increases paid by individuals or their employers for basic medical care.
Business organizations are concerned about a one per cent increase in corporate income tax, on top of the carbon tax on fossil fuels and the end of the harmonized sales tax that provided input tax credits.
Rick Jeffery, president of the Coastal Forest Products Association, said the return of the provincial sales tax amounts to a $140 million tax increase to his members.
Finance officials say 16 Crown properties to be sold off this year are expected to produce a net return of $260 million.