Budget 2008 Charts Steady Course: Selinger

by NationTalk on April 10, 2008801 Views

Manitoba News Release
April 9, 2008

Province Continues to Invest in Skills Training, Doctors, Nurses, Police Officers

Budget 2008 charts a steady economic course with strategic tax cuts for manufacturers, small businesses and families, boosts skills training, saves for the future and makes key investments in more doctors, nurses, police officers, water protection and climate change, Finance Minister Greg Selinger said today.“Manitoba is enjoying more success today than it has in decades,” said Selinger. “But we cannot ignore events occurring in the global economy – the competition for skilled labour is fierce, the high Canadian dollar challenges our export industries and the slowdown in the United States economy threatens to limit growth around the world.

“The strength of our economy today is a tribute to the hard work of every Manitoban and today’s budget charts a steady economic course by putting people first, managing our resources responsibly and making key investments in Manitobans’ priorities.”

Budget 2008 is the ninth straight balanced budget and fully reflects generally accepted accounting principles.

The budget projects a summary surplus of $96 million while making a payment of $110 million to reduce debt and pay for pension liabilities. The budget projects a Fiscal Stabilization Fund balance of $683 million at the end of 2007-08. The only draws from the Fiscal Stabilization Fund for 2008-09 will be $47 million for federal funds allocated for health-related initiatives and $13 million for climate change plans from funds advanced by the federal government.

Selinger said Budget 2008 charts a steady course, puts people first and invests in key priorities by:
• introducing a new Primary Caregiver Tax Credit in 2009 to provide eligible Manitobans $85 per month or up to $1,020 per year for primary caregivers;
• increasing the Education Property Tax Credit by $75 to $600, saving Manitobans another
$24.5 million each year;
• reducing personal income tax for every taxpayer by increasing the basic personal exemption by $100;
• removing the PST from non-prescription quit-smoking aids;
• making strategic tax changes to help manufacturers deal with the challenges of a high Canadian dollar;
• boosting apprenticeship training at Manitoba colleges;
• providing funding for additional prosecutors and 20 more police this year toward 100 more police positions over the next four years while expanding after-school programming for kids;
• introducing a new emissions tax on burning coal and a new program to help coal-reliant companies convert to greener energy;
• making further investments in modernizing roads and highways including $15 million to increase inspections, maintenance and rehabilitation of provincial bridges;
• attracting, training and retaining more doctors and nurses; and
• expanding bicycle paths and transit funding.

Budget 2008 commits Manitoba to providing one-third of the funding for upgrading Winnipeg’s waste-water treatment facilities and commits the province to investing $150 million for rural and northern municipal water and waste-water projects.

This year’s budget continues to protect Manitoba’s water by:
• investing in enhanced monitoring and inspection of septic fields in the capital region north of Winnipeg and in cottage country,
• increasing the contribution to the Nature Conservancy of Canada to $400,000 this year,
• increasing funding for conservation districts to more than $5.3 million, and
• introducing a new water conservation program to encourage purchases of water-saving devices.

Budget 2008 continues to build and renew Manitoba’s highway infrastructure through the province’s $4-billion, 10-year program to modernize highways and bridges. Last year, twinned sections of the Trans-Canada Highway were opened to the Saskatchewan border. This year, preliminary work will begin on the overpass at PTH 16 and the Trans-Canada Highway.

Manitoba is committed to creating 4,000 new apprenticeship positions over the next four years. This year’s budget builds the province’s skilled labour force by providing new funding to expand apprenticeship training this year, the first step toward reaching the four-year goal.

Budget 2008 provides $53.5 million in additional support to public schools across the province, the largest single year increase in more than 25 years, and brings the province one year closer to its commitment to fund 80 per cent of the total costs of public education.

Today’s budget continues to invest in post-secondary education to better equip young people to seize the opportunities of a growing economy, the minister said. Budget 2008 continues the 10 per cent tuition reduction for one more year after which tuition will begin to gradually rise to 1999 levels while ensuring the adjustments are reasonable and affordable.

Selinger said Budget 2008 continues to make post-secondary education affordable, accessible and invests in excellence by:
• boosting operating grants to seven per cent from five per cent, providing colleges and universities with an additional $8.4 million, as much new funding as they would have gained from a
six per cent increase in tuition;
• committing more than $100 million over the next two years for new and planned capital projects;
• doubling Manitoba’s student bursary program over the next three years beginning next year; and
• committing to a new bursary to assist rural and northern students pursuing post-secondary education.

Today’s budget continues to invest in doctor and nurse recruitment, training and retention. Currently, there are 235 more doctors and 1,789 more nurses working in Manitoba than in 1999. In 2007 alone, Manitoba gained 54 doctors, the highest annual increase on record.

Budget 2008 invests new resources to:
• expand the University of Manitoba medical school to 110 seats;
• launch a new, first-of-its-kind graduate program to train 12 new physician assistants over the next two years;
• fund additional nurse practitioner positions for emergency rooms and primary-care clinics;
• increase specialty training, especially for emergency medicine; and
• increase support for the International Medical Graduate program.

Budget 2008 continues Manitoba’s strong record of achievement in fighting climate change. Manitoba is on track for a carbon-neutral decade by 2010 and Manitoba will be Kyoto-compliant by 2012, said Selinger.

Supporting families and building communities remains a key priority in Budget 2008. Today’s budget invests an additional $5 million in new funding to improve access to quality child care in Manitoba, bringing the total increase in child-care funding since 1999 to more than $60 million. Today’s investments will:
• fund more child-care and nursery school spaces,
• establish a new training and recruitment fund, and
• increase salaries for early childhood educators.

Investments continue in Budget 2008 to protect Manitoba’s vulnerable children with a $23-million commitment to continue the province’s overhaul of the child protection system.

For the second year in a row, Budget 2008 funds 50 per cent of transit costs in Winnipeg, Brandon, Thompson and Flin Flon, restoring the funding partnership that was cancelled in 1993. The province will work with Winnipeg to develop projects to increase ridership, provide alternative active transportation options, including bicycle paths, and make progress toward a rapid transit implementation plan.

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