Also includes $279-milllion deficit
HALIFAX – Recognizing the current economic and fiscal challenges the province faces, the 2014-15 budget keeps the government's commitment to provide a transparent representation of the province's finances and its promises to Nova Scotians.
The budget also encourages private-sector economic growth fueled by a healthy and well-educated workforce.
In 2014-2015, the province lays the foundation for:
-- a more aggressive approach to our population and workforce issues
-- a comprehensive review of all our taxes, fees and regulations
-- a fresh perspective on economic development
-- transformative changes to the education system
-- a clear focus on front-line patient care
Budget 2014-15 includes $9.6 billion in revenues, $9.9 billion in total spending, and a $279 million deficit.
Budget 2014-15 makes private-sector economic growth a priority and sets the stage for businesses to invest, produce, compete and grow. Government will help more of our graduates, tradespeople and immigrants connect with opportunities that allow them to build their careers here and contribute to the economy. The potential of our primary industries and tourism sector will be leveraged to attract visitors and investments, and increase exports.
-- Attract investment in the offshore through the Offshore Growth Strategy, which will make geoscience information available to the industry and directly market our offshore to the world ($2.8 million)
-- Enhance the Access to Business, or A2B, and Access for Citizens, A4C, web portals to reduce red tape and provide businesses and Nova Scotians with quicker, easier access to services and programs ($7.4 million capital cost)
-- Align immigrants with our areas of greatest need and improve their ability to settle and join our workforce through the Regional Labour Market Demand Stream ($1.3 million)
-- Promote Nova Scotia lobster nationally and internationally ($250,000)
-- Invest in research and innovation in the mink industry, one of our fastest growing and globally competitive exports ($500,000)
-- Help the apple industry grow more world-class products ($200,000)
-- Market Nova Scotia throughout the Northeastern United States to attract more visitors ($1.5 million)
Budget 2014-15 will reflect the value of our post-secondary institutions and their graduates to our economy by increasing support and offering incentives to live, work and start a family in our province.
-- Eliminate the interest on the provincial portion of student loans for eligible students who have entered repayment on their provincial loans on or after November 1, 2007 ($1.6 million)
-- Provide tuition relief to encourage more medical graduates ($750,000)
-- Provide new graduate scholarships for innovation and research ($1.85 million)
-- Help new graduates start their careers here by defraying the cost employers incur in the first year of hiring through the Graduate to Opportunities program ($1.6 million)
-- Modernize the Apprenticeship Program to give apprentices the experience they need to access good jobs ($2.6 million)
-- Help high-value businesses recruit and provide meaningful work experiences to university and community college students by expanding the Strategic Co-operative Education Incentive program to a total of 425 funded private and non-profit positions each year ($500,000)
-- Expand the Student Career Skills Development Program to support another 250 not-for-profit summer jobs in high unemployment areas for a total of 750 jobs for post-secondary students looking for career-specific experience ($1 million)
Budget 2014-15 will support a new direction for our education system. The first full education review in 25 years will lay out a plan to improve learning outcomes and better prepare the next generation for success in the workplace.
Limits on how many children can be in a single class will give teachers the time they need to help students individually and provide extra support to those with special needs. Wait times for early intervention programs will be reduced, reading recovery will be re-introduced, new approaches to math and literacy will be taken, and more support for students with special needs will be provided to ensure that children get the help they need when it makes the greatest difference.
-- Reduce wait lists for community-based Early Intervention Programs ($1.3 million)
-- Cap class sizes for grades primary to 2 to give students the attention they need to succeed when they most need it ($7.2 million). The Grade 3 cap also remains
-- Help communities tailor school programming to local needs, enrich the educational experience and reduce pressure to fundraise through increases to Student Support Grants ($2.2 million in total: $5,000/school plus $1/student)
-- Re-introduce Reading Recovery for Grade 1 students as part of suite of support for children in grades primary to 3 comprising an Early Literacy Framework ($3.5 million)
-- Help students succeed in math by providing supports for teachers and a bridging program to ensure students complete math in Grade 10 ($2.4 million)
-- Open the door to new opportunities for Nova Scotia students, especially those in small rural schools, by providing a wide variety of courses via Virtual Schools ($1.2 million)
HEALTH AND WELLNESS
Budget 2014-15 will place the focus firmly on patients and families. Our funding will be focused on front-line care so that more of our health-care dollars can be spent on shorter wait times and improved health outcomes for those with chronic disease.
We will invest more to attract and keep physicians and encourage new medical graduates to remain in our province, bringing us closer to the goal of ensuring every Nova Scotian has a family doctor.
-- Move forward with a provincial approach to health-care delivery and reduce the number of district health authorities from 10 to 2 to put more focus on front-line care
-- Continue to support programs to train, recruit and hire physicians, with a particular emphasis on rural and remote areas ($10.6 million)
-- Work to meet the national standard for hip and knee replacement wait times ($4.2 million)
-- Continue to support home-care services, allowing older Nova Scotians to stay in their homes longer ($32.6 million)
-- Improve access to cancer drugs and other drugs including Lucentis and Avastin ($1.9 million)
-- Increase the age of eligibility of the children's dental program to 14 ($525,000)
FAMILIES AND COMMUNITIES
Budget 2014-15 will support families and communities through investments that will allow more seniors to stay in their homes, give children and parents access to more resources and ensure that survivors of sexual assault receive compassionate support.
-- Help 300 more seniors each year stay in their homes through a $1.5-million increase in the Senior Citizens Assistance Program (for a total investment of $4.15 million)
-- Develop a three-year sexual assault strategy focused on prevention and victim services ($2 million)
-- Invest in public transit in the Halifax Regional Municipality ($2 million) and public and community-based transit outside the capital region ($1 million)
-- Invest in the Community Transportation Assistance Program to help Nova Scotians in communities without bus service stay mobile ($500,000)
-- Help Nova Scotians drive less distance, move more actively and efficiently, use cleaner energy, and access a wider range of sustainable transportation options ($2 million)
TAXES AND OTHER MEASURES
Government has undertaken a comprehensive review of taxes, fees and regulations based on the principles of fairness, sustainability, simplicity and competitiveness. The review will be delivered in fall 2014 and will determine how Nova Scotia taxes, regulations and fees can better support private-sector growth.
GRADUATE RETENTION REBATE
Effective Jan. 1, 2014, the Graduate Retention Rebate will be eliminated. Graduates are still able to receive the rebate for the 2013 tax year.
GUARANTEED INCOME SUPPLEMENT
The Guaranteed Income Supplement and non-refundable Age Amount tax credit, which exempt low-income seniors from paying provincial income tax, will continue.
HARMONIZED SALES TAX
Budget 2014-15 will maintain the Harmonized Sales Tax at 15 per cent.
On Jan. 1, 2015, the efficiency fee will come off all power bills resulting in energy savings for all Nova Scotians.
CHILD TAX BENEFIT
Eligibility for the Child Tax Benefit will be expanded to 1,300 more children from low-income families ($450,000).