Budget 2014: P.E.I. on track for balanced books by 2016, Sheridan says

Teresa Wright
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P.E.I. Finance Minister Wes Sheridan says he remains on track to balance the province’s books in 2016, delivering this year’s budget with a $39.7 million deficit.

Department expenditures have once again been virtually frozen this year for the third consecutive year.

Program spending is down this year over what was spent last year, but part of last year’s expenditures included an unbudgeted $25 million payment into the two private sector pension funds as part of a major pension overhaul.

The province is expecting revenues to grow 3.3 per cent this year, but is only increasing spending by 2 per cent.

This is all part of Sheridan’s plan to get the province out of deficit.

By growing revenues faster than expenditures this year and again next year, a modest surplus of $100,000 is projected for the 2015-2016 fiscal year.

“It’s very much a stay the course, let’s get balanced type of budget, but there are a few initiatives that are not very expensive but they are impactful for people on the street, and that is exactly what we’ve tried to target.”

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This marks the first full year since the harmonized sales tax was introduced in Prince Edward Island.

Detailed revenue forecasts included in this year’s budget document show the HST brought approximately $30 million in new sales taxes in 2013-14.

But the province did not receive as much in HST revenues as it anticipated.

“We’re finishing almost $9 million below (what we budgeted),” Sheridan said.

“There’s something amiss inside all harmonized jurisdictions. Ontario reported three months ago they’re $1 billion off this year… there’s something that’s going on. The officials have had numerous phone calls, they’ve gone to Ottawa to look at it to try to see why is there a difference in this fiscal.”

The single largest increase in expenditure this year was on interest charges on the provinces’ debt, which increased almost $16 million. This is more than increases this year to the health and education departments combined.

The net debt this year will grow to $2.16 billion.

As part of his budget address, Sheridan announced a number of new measures and programs, but none of them come with big price tags.

As promised, government will spend $400,000 this year to pay for insulin pumps and related supplies for children with Type 1 diabetes.

The province will also expand the number of day surgery spaces at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital from 10 to 18 and will provide a separate opthamology suite. This represents $775,000 in new spending for the health department.

To help Islanders referred off-Island for medical appointments and surgeries, the province has entered into a partnership with Maritime Bus to provide financial assistance for patients’ bus transportation to their health care destination. This assistance will be based on income testing.

The senior’s home repair program is also getting a modest boost, with an increased grant amount of $2,000 for qualifying applicants.

“It’s very much a stay the course, let’s get balanced type of budget, but there are a few initiatives that are not very expensive but they are impactful for people on the street, and that is exactly what we’ve tried to target,” Finance Minister Wes Sheridan

Regulations will also be changed to allow pharmacists to administer flu shots.

Room and board and clothing allowance for children in the province’s care will be increased by two per cent next year.

A number of other new initiatives were also announced in today’s budget with little to no cost for government.

A new ‘Triple P’ parenting program, developed at the University of Queensland in Australia, will be launched “to help solve current parenting problems and prevent future struggles.”

An ‘Eye See, Eye Learn’ program will also be introduced, allowing eligible kindergarten children free eye exams and, if they require glasses, they will receive them for free through a private sector sponsor.

Government will partner with the Red Cross to offer a health equipment loan program for those who require special equipment, such as a wheelchair, hospital bed, walker or bath seat.

Also this year, an initiative promised in the fall Speech from the Throne for Grade 9 students will go ahead. This will help students with career and financial planning as they prepare to transition to post-secondary education.

Last year’s deficit came in at $52 million – which is $7 million better than projected.

 

... More on this story later, full details in the print and e-editions of The Guardian tomorrow.

 

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Recent comments

  • Hawkeye
    April 09, 2014 - 09:17

    What unforeseen pension plan shortfall ?Jeepers they have been topping up the unfunded liability for every year for 20 years now !! What bull manure is he spreading now!! Can not blame the invest markets now they are back stronger than they were before the 2007 crash !! You can fool some of the people some of time ,but not all the people all of the time !!

  • don
    April 09, 2014 - 07:56

    what will be your excuse be in 2016 wes when you DO NOT balance the books? oh yes the feds is to blame. never wes he is perfect at not taking the blame for his SCREW UPS.

  • reality check
    April 09, 2014 - 07:00

    $100 million (and counting) of that debt is that of a private company named MARITIME ELECTRIC COMPANY LTD which the taxpayers were forced to assume thanks to Mr. Sheridan and Mr. Ghiz so that they could get MECL to lower its rate per kilowatt hour. And then Mr. Sheridan and Mr. Ghiz put another $100 million or more on the provincial debt by buying wind turbines from VESTAS to install in Hermanville and East Point. In the interest of energy fairness, I wonder if these same politicians will do the same and give $100 million to another private company IRVING OIL LTD and get a 1 or 2 cent a litre decrease in gasoline and diesel prices for a few weeks? Gheesh...

    • don
      April 09, 2014 - 09:15

      using the Mr is correct in one way The title Mr derived from the word "master", and ghiz was a bully and now they are both masters at taking from the poor to feed the rich. and yet ghiz said he has this saying on his desk will someone please tell him the true meaning of this saying "but for he grace of God go i" he will soon find out and when his family is standing in the line to the food bank he will then understand but then it will be to late.

  • Mental health and addictions
    April 09, 2014 - 05:54

    Where is the increased investment in mental health and addictions? Are we just going to stay the course and let people die so that we can balance the books! This is one area that is at an epidemic level and needs investment. I am so disappointed and even more concerned for PEI's future.

  • Jim
    April 09, 2014 - 05:29

    Just thr same load of crap we have been getting since they have gotten into power. The only bright thing in the future is their own bank accounts,and pension plans.They manage to find lost of cash to fatten those up.

  • Billy
    April 08, 2014 - 18:14

    They never mention when there is an increase in fees such the variuos licences required or the CPI increase in property taxes. Then there is the fuel taxes ans electricity. Increases. 2billion in debt and how many taxpayers on pei. Sheesh!

  • rob
    April 08, 2014 - 16:59

    good job wes!!! ( SAID NO ONE EVER )

  • Garth Staples
    April 08, 2014 - 16:18

    A $100,000 surplus wouldn't last the govt two hours. What a silly childish forecast.

  • marcus
    April 08, 2014 - 16:09

    Time to give up the ghost and merge the Maritime provinces. PEI should be a regional municipality. We have a public sector (civil service, teachers and health workers) of over 10,000 employees.... for 140,000 people, most of whom are elderly/retirees. For a place with a very very very tiny tax base, continuing as a province is an unnecessary luxury. Municipalities are folding and amalgamating because they are not sustainable. When will provinces follow?

    • NotSoBright
      April 08, 2014 - 22:58

      Read your own post and get back to us. Why in hell would the other Atlantic provinces want to absorb another 2 BILLION dollars in debt knowing they will never see dime one of repayment?

  • Oh Really!
    April 08, 2014 - 15:54

    P.E.I. Finance Minister Wes Sheridan says he remains on track to balance the province’s books in 2016 ... Oh really?... Ummmm... isn't there a provincial election coming in 2016? Does this guy really think we're all that stupid? Does he really think we actually believe anything he says anymore? In the legislature Tuesday Ghiz said it looks as if that date will conflict with the next federal election, so P.E.I. will likely move its next vote to April 2016. (Dec 04, 2013 )

  • realislander
    April 08, 2014 - 15:28

    Balanced on the wrong back ..little wonder everyone is leaving and paying Alta. Tax ..

    • cuz
      April 08, 2014 - 15:45

      Because Alberta can juice the oil patch for as much tax as it wants? find an oil patch on PEI, and you'll have an accurate comparison.

  • Susan
    April 08, 2014 - 15:14

    What about gas & oil prices...

  • RIGHT MEANING
    April 08, 2014 - 15:13

    By growing revenues I assume Wes means higher taxes on everything as per his usual thinking.

  • don
    April 08, 2014 - 15:03

    anyone got a shovel? wes said he would balance the books by 2014 then 2015 now 2016 next will be 3016..........

    • scott
      April 08, 2014 - 15:55

      Don, I grow tired of reading your sniveling garbage day in and day out on here. You need to get out of yourmothers basement, or, get a job and contribute to the province. You have yet to make any sort of coherent, constructive comment on anything, just your usual pathetic rhetoric. Perhaps, if the MLA's are not doing a good enough job in your opinion, you will put your name onthe ballot in 2016 and straighten everything out. Or is it easier to just armchair quarterback from that basement? Grow up Don, and wise up.