For the third year in a row vastly underestimated revenues have resulted in a larger-than-expected surplus, this time reaching over $1 billion.
New Brunswick Finance Minister Ernie Steeves says the surplus demonstrates the government’s commitment to strong fiscal management.
“We have taken that money and lowered the debt, which helps everybody in the province. We’ve also lowered taxes; that’s a rare feat,” he said.
“We’ve also increased spending. Health care represents 34 per cent of government spending. I would say you’re in good hands right now.”
The $1.013-billion surplus breaks last year’s record of $777 million, driven by underestimated personal and corporate income tax revenues. The March 2022 budget projected a modest surplus of $35 million.
Liberal finance critic Rene Legacy says the government has shown an inability to move quickly to use unexpected windfalls to address the needs of the public.
“We’re not seeing that impetus to get that money out there and start acting like a province that is growing,” he said.
“It’s time to act with a little bit of confidence and get the help out there that I think some areas desperately need.”
Both Steeves and Department of Finance staff say they aren’t seeing a similar explosion in revenues that led to the large surpluses of the past few years, but the $40-million projected surplus has already been revised to $199 million after the first quarter of this year.
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Steeves says some of that money may be used in a suite of measures aimed at addressing affordability, such as tax cuts, that were recently presented to cabinet.
“We figure on using a number of different options as we have in the past, but yeah, I like tax cuts. I like to have that money in my pocket, rather than in the government’s pockets, personally, and I’m sure everybody else does too,” he said.
But Green Leader David Coon says it’s unthinkable to be considering tax cuts when the province’s public services are suffering, telling reporters the story of an older constituent who spent 19 hours in the emergency room of the Dr. Edward Chalmers Hospital this weekend.
“I can’t imagine how he’s even contemplating tax cuts when the needs are so great to invest in a health-care system that’s crumbling beneath our feet.”
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