Despite well-publicized spending commitments and a robust provincial economy, not all Saskatchewan people are benefiting and many people have been hurt by the government’s failure to adequately fund public services, according to the Saskatchewan Alternative Budget released today by the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives.
The Alternative budget sets out a bold, but responsible program for the re-investment in three key areas: economic security, health care, and education and says no to decreases in corporate tax rates.
The preparation of this year’s Alternative Budget was informed by a broad public consultation process that took place through the Citizens’ Budget Commission which held hearings in six communities across Saskatchewan over eight days in November and December of 2005.
“I was struck by the widely and strongly held view of many participants in the Citizens’ Budget Commission that public revenue must be ensured through fair and equitable taxation,” says Dr. Jim Mulvale, Chair of the Commission and one of the Alternative Budget’s contributors and head of the Justice Studies Department at the University of Regina.
The Saskatchewan Alternative Budget strongly urges the provincial government not to proceed with the recommendations of the Business Tax Review Committee (BTRC) until they are reconsidered in the broader context of the overall investment climate in the province and relevant to other potential budgetary measures.
The package of business tax measures recommended by BTRC is expected to cost the treasury up to $180 million annually once fully implemented.
“There is no proof that the amount of new economic activity that will be generated as a result of the cuts recommended by the Business Tax Review Committee will compensate for this loss of revenue,” says Dr. Gary Tompkins, CCPA Saskatchewan Research Associate and Head of the Department of Economics at the University of Regina.
Rather than lowering corporate taxes, the Alternative Budget recommends that the government increase resource royalties.
Tompkins suggests that it is time that the provincial government had a serious debate on resource royalties.
“Saskatchewan is Canada’s second largest oil producer and third largest gas producer,” says Tompkins. “During a time of unprecedented demand for these and other natural resources, the province should be collecting more revenue and directing it to programs that benefit the people of Saskatchewan.”
The Alternative Budget suggests a number of positive alternatives:
- A new tax credit program for people who, after gaining employment, are in a transition period between social assistance and total independence;
- Additional resources to municipalities to offset regressive education property taxes;
- A comprehensive strategy to address poverty which includes increases to the Social Assistance Program and the elimination of the discriminatory Transition to Employment Assistance [JC2](TEA)program;A new focus and re-investment in Health Care that would see major investments in primary health care and health promotion[JC3] ;
- Investing in our education system through new money for child care and early learning; improvements to the K-12 system that will make education more equitable across the province;
- A new plan for Post-Secondary education that will see tuition fees reduced by half within the next five years; more grants for low-income families; and significantly more money for SIAST and programs in the skilled trades.
- Programs to support sustainable agriculture and environmental stewardship; initiatives to address violence against women; and funding for the cultural sector.
The Saskatchewan Alternative Budget is available at www.policyalternatives.ca
To arrange an interview call Alyssa Daku at 306-581-4897 or Lynn Gidluck at 306-584-9807.