Thursday July 31, 2014





Businesses swallow budget tax hike

'To get a balanced budget and get out of a deficit, you have to make difficult choices'
Keith Anderson

The budget will offer tax breaks and family incentives that benefit families like Sawyer, 5, with his mother Nichole Camphaug. She was picking up her son Tuesday from the Sixth Avenue Montessori childcare in downtown Kamloops.

Increasing the corporate tax rate by one per cent will hurt business, but a Kamloops accountant believes the B.C. Liberals did what was necessary to balance the latest provincial budget.

Norm Daley hopes the hike, which doesn't impact small business, won't climb higher and will one day return to the 10 per cent it has been fixed at for years, he said Tuesday.

"Hopefully we will have a prosperous future in B.C. and we can go back to the 10-per-cent rate because it really did drive the economy," said Daley.

Finance Minister Mike de Jong unveiled the Liberals final budget before the May 14 election in the legislature Tuesday afternoon.

Daley noted the Liberals made some tough decisions in order to balance the province's finances. Not everyone in business will appreciate the increase, but it had to be done.

"To get a balanced budget and get out of a deficit, you have to make difficult choices," he said. "I think, at this time, they had to do it and I support what they've done."

David Jacobs, general manager of Kamloops Dodge Chrysler Jeep, said the increase will see his business pay about $20,000 more in taxes a year.

But Jacobs, who lives in Alberta, said the hike isn't enough to make him rethink doing business in B.C.

"Tax is tax," he said.

Past Kamloops Chamber of Commerce president Peter Aylen said the amount won't hurt his business, Absorbent Products, but will impact larger businesses like Moly-Cop and Lafarge.

The modest tax increases, along with the promise of a one-time, $1,200 grant parents can set up for their children, make for a pretty low-key budget, said Aylen.

"Which is what you need at this point in the game," he said.

Nichole Camphaug picked up her son at Sixth Avenue Montessori daycare on Tuesday afternoon, just after the budget was announced.

She read a fact sheet of the budget highlights related to child-care spending and said she liked what she saw.

"It's a step in the right direction," said Camphaug. "That helps. Childcare costs are not cheap."

Camphaug's son, Sawyer, is five, which means he qualifies for the $1,200 education savings grant announced as part of the budget. The grant is restricted to children born after Jan. 1, 2007.

His daycare will also likely benefit from the $32 million to be spent on new childcare spaces as well as the $37 million to be spent on improving quality and services of childcares.

"More resources is good for the facilities and the children," she said.

Not all of the news for youth and education is positive. De Jong revealed the budget for the Ministry of Advanced Education, Education, Innovation and Technology will drop by $46 million over three years.

The government expects post-secondary schools to find the money by saving on administration and discretionary spending.

Christopher Seguin, Thompson Rivers University's vice-president of advancement, said administrators knew the cuts were coming and will do what's necessary to compensate without impacting the quality of student education.

How it will be done isn't yet known, he said.

"We have to look at what kind of efficiencies we can find as an institution and work within that," said Seguin.

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Budget good for six months no matter election outcome

No matter the outcome of the May election, Tuesday's provincial budget will have a shelf life of at least six months, a retired political science professor said.

"A real quick transition only scares people. You become a one-term government that way in a hurry," said Ray Pillar, formerly of Thompson Rivers University.

Pillar speculated on the validity of the B.C. Liberals' latest budget, which was revealed Tuesday afternoon. The question on his and a lot of political watchers' minds is what the budget means given the pending election.

If the Liberals lose on May 14 and the New Democrats take power, any sweeping changes the party wants to make won't happen overnight. In fact, Pillar suggests it will take the NDP two to three years to change the course of the province.

"In the meantime, business carries on with its own momentum with a decade of Liberal budgets behind them," he said.

If the Liberals stay in power, they've at least got a blueprint for the next year, said Pillar.

"If they get re-elected, they are going to try and make a long-term commitment to things and not a short-term one."

* * *

QUOTABLE

Kamloops-South Thompson MLA Kevin Krueger: I'm very pleased that our deficit came in smaller than anticipated for the year we're currently in. I'm also very grateful that the government has followed through on our fiscal disciplines and does have a balanced budget.

Kamloops-North Thompson MLA Terry Lake: I think it's modest, responsible and balanced. I think that's what people expected and that's what they got — a budget that's reasonable and says we can't spend more than we bring in.

Kamloops-South Thompson Liberal candidate Todd Stone: It would have been easier to announce a whole bunch of grants and programs and shower the electorate with a whole bunch of goodies. We've opted not to do that.

Kamloops-North Thompson NDP candidate Kathy Kendall: It disturbs me that they're selling hundreds of millions in public assets to balance this budget. It's like selling your furniture and your car to balance your budget at home.


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