Ken Krawetz's post provincial budget tour brought him to Estevan on April 7, as he spoke at a luncheon hosted by the Estevan Chamber of Commerce.
Krawetz, the province's finance minister and deputy premier, shared the process in finalizing the document, and trumpeted some of its contents, for an audience of about 30 people. His visit came 12 days after the budget was handed down.
Krawetz outlined several points: the path to a balanced budget, the absence of tax increases, controlled spending and investments in infrastructure.
“I think a lot of people aren't aware of the process,” said Krawetz. “I think understanding the process and understanding the dollars that come at you will help you realize that there will still be some people who will look at this budget … and say there wasn't enough for me.”
This year's budget is balanced, Krawetz said, even though revenues are down by about $100 million, and the government has switched to a summary budget that incorporates both the Crown corporations and the general revenue fund (GRF).
“I think it was easier for government to focus on GRF, because the GRF is where all of the revenues that government controls,” said Krawetz.
Summaries carry a lot of risk, he said, as there are now some Crown-related expenses in the budget that are out of the government's control, such as crop insurance and storm damage.
The government also opted for the status quo on taxes, despite lengthy discussions on increasing the education portion of property tax.
Krawetz said the government was able to control spending, thanks to some tough decisions, but there are still come investments, particularly in health, highways, education, advanced education and Crown corporation infrastructure.
“We are talking about $2.9 billion worth of infrastructure, but I want to point out that $2 billion of that is for Crowns,” said Krawetz.
But there is money for highway passing lanes and twinning projects, and the government reaffirmed its commitment to twinning Highways 6 and 39 from Regina to the junction of Highways 39 and 18 east of Estevan. It costs about $1.5 million to twin a kilometre of highway, he said.
“It's not going to happen overnight,” said Krawetz. “But we have to get moving on it, because we have to make sure we have other partners.”
A CT scan for St. Joseph's Hospital was omitted from the document. Estevan's health committee has secured funding to purchase a machine and operate it for two years, but Krawetz said it would have to be a budget item, because there will be future expenses.
Krawetz said he has heard of the proposal for a CT scan in Estevan, but it has yet to be presented at the treasury board level.