The provincial government has trotted out its annual gift bag of spending goodies that is its provincial budget. Those who were expecting a budget rife with big-spending items will be disappointed. People who had modest expectations will be pleased.
It's a balanced with a small financial cushion, in case the government has a repeat of 2012-13, when resource revenues failed to meet expectations; or in case there's a repeat of the floods of 2010 and 2011, which could cause expenses to soar.
Any government that files a balanced budget, in 2013, is doing something right, although there will be a little dipping into other coffers. There are a lot of impediments to having a balanced budget in Saskatchewan, ranging from the global economic uncertainty to a backlog of oil in pipelines that means that Saskatchewan oil producers don't get fair value for their oil.
It's a budget that reflects a growing province, which is enjoying a population increase, good economic times and hurdles associated with growth.
There's more money for hospitals and health regions in the budget. The government has renewed its commitment to reduce surgical wait times. There's more money for schools and school divisions, although not as much as they would like. And the government has pledged to reduce the education portion of property taxes, mitigating the impact of property value increases across the province.
There's more money for municipal operating grants. The government has pledged more money for low-income seniors, and people with disabilities.
It would be nice to see small business and corporate taxes slashed, but some of the challenges of the past 12 months mean that something had to be cut.
And there'll be more funding for highways projects, although individuals who travel on rapidly deteriorating roads each day will always want more. It's good to see that the government expects construction to begin on Estevan's new truck route this year, since that project has been delayed so many times for so many reasons.
One element that's disappointing is the pledge to start work on passing lanes on Highway 10 from Balgonie to Fort Qu'Appelle. The project that should be the next top priority, twinning Highway 39 from Weyburn to the junction with Highway 18, is being ignored. (Highway 39 from Estevan to Macoun is also crumbling, but it didn't receive a mention in the budget).
On first glance, it doesn't appear that there are any surprises. There isn't a repeat of last year, when the government surprised people by cutting funding for the enterprise regions, and axing the Saskatchewan Film Tax Credit.
The one thing that might be an aggravation to the majority of the public is the decision to have an across-the-board mark-up on liquor prices, but at a three per cent increase, most people shouldn't feel a big impact.
And if the worst part about the budget is the fact that we'll have to spend a little more for beer, then that's probably a good thing. There are far worse things that could be included in a budget.