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Provincial budget 2019-20: The right balance

MLA Warren Michelson's column for the week of March 27, 2019
Moose Jaw North MLA Warren Michelson

The Saskatchewan Provincial Budget was presented last Wednesday by Finance Minister Donna Harpauer. This is a balanced budget, and the right balance for Saskatchewan citizens, with a projected surplus of $34.4 million. Revenue is forecast at $15.03 billion, up about $782 million, compared to last year’s budget.

Expense of $14.99 billion is projected, up from the previous year’s budget by $382 million.

This budget strikes the right balance to strengthen our economy, provide needed services, manage spending and keep taxes low. 

Of considerable interest to Moose Jaw is the announcement of planning and design funding for a joint-use school that will consolidate and replace Sacred Heart and St. Mary, as well as Empire and Westmount Schools. The Prairie South and Holy Trinity school divisions also received a boost in funding in this year’s budget. Province-wide there is $1.9 billion in operating funding for the school divisions, an increase of more than $26 million over last year while Education Property Tax rates remain unchanged. 

Infrastructure investment, including Crowns, is $2.7 billion. This will include the completion of the Jim Pattison Children’s Hospital in Saskatoon, completion of the Regina Bypass, and improvements to $1,000 kilometres of highway. 

The budget invests in construction of a new long-term care facility in Meadow Lake as well as provides funding for preconstruction design of a new Victoria Hospital in Prince Albert and the planning and design of a new hospital in Weyburn. 

Infrastructure improvements also include 41 new SaskTel cellular sites to improve wireless service. This is part of a two-year initiative to add 100 new cellular sites, connecting the farm to the city, in smaller communities across Saskatchewan.

Municipal infrastructure funding exceeds $229 million in this budget, an 11 per cent increase from last year.

The 2019-20 Budget includes a strong focus on mental health. Funding for targeted mental health and addictions initiatives is increasing by nearly $30 million in this budget to a total of nearly $402 million. This represents the largest commitment ever to mental health services in Saskatchewan, and it includes funding for more than 140 new beds for mental health and addictions treatment, funding to recruit and train more health care professionals to treat crystal meth and opioid addictions and funding for 18 new mental health walk-in counselling clinics.

The Saskatchewan Assured Income for Disability (SAID) program will receive a $6.3 million increase, increased funding for private service homes and third-party agencies that provide services for persons with intellectual disabilities, $3.5 million to transition youth with intellectual disabilities to adult disability services, and $2.6 million to provide residential and day programming services to high-needs adults who urgently require services. New funding of $500,000 will continue to improve access to respite supports for families caring for adult children with intellectual disabilities. 

Our government is committed to improving care for seniors by investing in the replacement of 13 long-term care facilities for seniors across the province, along with increases to home care support.  The 2019-20 Budget will also provide $1.1 million—an increase of more than $660,000—to the Alzheimer Society for the First Link program.  

This budget is good news for the people of Moose Jaw and the people of our province. It will help our economy grow so we can continue to provide the services needed, like health, education and social supports. The 2019-20 Budget is The Right Balance for our Province.

To receive your copy of the 2019-20 Budget, please visit my office at 326 High St. W. 

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