When questioned about the BC Liberal government’s budget being more like an NDP budget, Langley MLA and Transportation Minister Mary Polak says “it’s partly true.”
The budget came down Tuesday as part of a short legislative session — the last one before the provincial election on May 14. While governments often sprinkle goodies in their pre-election budgets, this one focused mainly on tax increases and other revenue generating streams.
The NDP had already called for a boost in the corporate tax rate and higher income taxes on people with high incomes.
The Liberal budget echoes that, calling for an increase in corporate tax rates, from 10 per cent to 11 per cent on April 1, as well as a temporary two-year boost in the tax rate paid by people making $150,000 or more. Cigarette taxes will also go up, as of Oct. 1.
Medical Service Plan premiums will also rise another four per cent on Jan. 1, 2014, marking the fifth straight year of premium increases. They have risen by 28 per cent in that time.
Polak defends the tax and fee increases, saying the government took a balanced approach to try and get money from many sources. The budget calls for a small surplus at the end of the fiscal year, but that is predicated on sales of government-owned land adding up to $625 million over the next two years.
Polak said the MSP increases amount to about $5 per month for a family of four. She added that families are still better off than they were in 2001, when the Liberals were first elected, as income tax rates have dropped dramatically since that time.
She said there are lots of benefits from families in the budget, including a $1,200 RESP contribution when children turn six, a tax credit for families with children that begins in 2015 and tax credits for kids’ arts and sports programs.
“The budget reflects that we are trying to help the middle class,” she said.
“I think ‘balanced’ reflects what we are doing, as the minister of finance has done a ton of work to control spending.”
She said B.C.’s triple-A credit rating depends on whether the government makes its targets, not whether or not it runs a surplus, and on that front her government is doing well.