Nova Scotia Finance Minister Maureen MacDonald was in Truro on Tuesday to speak to a Truro & Colchester Chamber of Commerce luncheon as part of her pre-budget tour.
Bucking the national trend, Finance Minister Maureen MacDonald tabled a balanced 2013-14 provincial budget for Nova Scotia today.
“I'm sure that Nova Scotians are looking at all of the other Atlantic provinces around us who have all been unable to table balanced budgets this year,” MacDonald said by phone.
What made the difference she said was measures the government took three years ago are paying off.
“The facts speak for themselves in that respect,” she said. “It hasn't been easy; it' hasn't been painless, but it certainly has been worth it.”
The 2013-14 budget projects a surplus of $16.4 million.
Revenues for 2013-14, including net income from government business enterprises, are estimated at $9.5 billion, an increase of $210.9 million or 2.3 per cent from the 2012-13 budget estimates.
For the first time in more than a decade, revenue forecasts contained in the 2013-14 budget have received an unqualified opinion from the Office of the Auditor General, MacDonald said.
The 2013-14 provincial budget will reduce the provincial tax rate for small businesses for the fourth year in a row. Effective Jan. 1, 2014, the rate of corporate income tax for small businesses will drop to three per cent from 3.5 per cent. The small business tax rate, which was five per cent in 2010, was lowered half a percentage point in both 2011 and 2012. Eligible small businesses can apply this rate on the first $350,000 of taxable income.
Also of note is funding for insulin pumps and supplies for youth up to 19, and supplies for insulin pumps for people younger than 25.
MacDonald said that this is a topic that she heard quite a bit about when she served as health minister and something that continued to be pushed by grassroot efforts including a petition started by Pictou County’s Tammy MacLaren. All that had an impact on their decision.
“We are a government that likes to listen to Nova Scotians,” MacDonald said.
As reflected in March's 2012-13 forecast update, the province's spending came in above the estimate. Deficit is $356.4 million for 2012-13.
MacDonald admits that the province and country for that matter aren’t coming out of the recession as quickly as anticipated and in many ways revenues have been lower than expected. What’s allowed the province to get back to balance she said is spending restraint. Over the past four years, government has held growth in spending flat, after it grew by an average of 6.6 per cent the previous nine years, reduced the size of the civil service by more than 600 and introduced new wage patterns among other cost saving measures.
She said she was optimistic that with the ship building contract, the IT jobs brought in by IBM and other economic opportunities on the horizon that things will continue to improve in the province.
"Nova Scotia is turning the corner toward new opportunities and greater prosperity," she said.
MacDonald dismissed opposition arguments that the budget was somehow inaccurately made to look like it was not balanced properly.
“The opposition parties were saying the budget wasn't balanced before they even saw it,” she said. “The proof is in what was tabled today.”