Finance Minister Heath MacDonald has delivered a second consecutive balanced budget. The budget is projecting a surplus of $1.5-million. As for whether this is an “election budget,” MacDonald says they have not been told of an elction, and he points out some items in the budget are being activated immediately.
Here are some highlights:
The small business tax rate is being cut .5% in this fiscal year, and further reductions are planned but nothing finalized yet. There’s also a new Small Business Investment Grant that will give companies a 15% rebate on business investments up to $25-thousand.
There’s an increase to the Basic Personal exemption of $500 for the current, and a further increase of $500 as of January 1st, 2019.
There’s a rebate on the provincial tax on the first block of residential electricity, as well as firewood, pellets and propane. The carbon plan will be confirmed later this year.
The budget includes an additional investment of $32-million in the health care system. Government says that includes an additional $4-million in new supports for mental health and addictions. It commits to adding 50 new private nursing home beds in the fall of 2018, with up to 50 additional beds in 2019-20.
Other highlights: an additional $5.3-million to support up to 400 childcare spaces; also an additional $1.2-million in child care subsidies isaimed at helping ease the financial burden for families.
Food rates will increase by $420-thousand, and government will add to shelter allowances, increasing the budget by $500-thousand effective June 1st.
19 more classroom teachers are to be added this year, while 25 new EAL positions will be created, and 32 new Education Assistant positions will be created to support children with special needs. Every island student earning their first degree in PEI at UPEI and Maritime Christian College will get an additional $3600 under the new Island Advantage bursary, while each island student attending Holland College and College De L’ile will get an additional $1200.
As for cannabis, MacDonald says the province plans to work with Ottawa on a taxation framework. But it expects it to be revenue neutral for now with estimated sales in the first year to be $7.5-million.