Thursday’s provincial budget has something for everyone, from preschoolers, who will soon be offered a full day of school when they enter Kindergarten, to university students, who will get a major break on their finances, to seniors, who will get a modest increase in their disposable income.
Parents, young families
If you’re a parent with young children – or are planning to have some – the budget is aimed at you. Full-day Kindergarten, something the government has studied in the past but until now has resisted, will launch in September 2016. The budget includes money to build a new school in Coley’s Point and to extend St. Peter’s Junior High in Mount Pearl and Elizabeth Park Elementary in Paradise. Government is also funding a screening program for cystic fibrosis.
University and college students
If you’re a student, the budget has several important components. The government is replacing its loans system with needs-based grants to students who qualify. About 7,000 students are expected to be eligible. As well, government is going to eliminate interest on student loans. As well, a long-running freeze on post-secondary tuition fees will continue at Memorial University and the College of the North Atlantic. As well, the budget parks money to fix up aging residences and labs at Memorial University.
If you smoke, expect to pay more to feed your habit. Taxes at midnight will jump by three cents for every cigarette, and by six cents per gram on packages of fine-cut tobacco. (To help people quit, government is allocating $712,000 to subsidize smoking-cessation products for low-income smokers.)
If you’re a public servant, the budget avoids the layoffs and job eliminations that were a big focus last year. That’s the good news. The tough news? The government is committed to fixing a mounting debt, now closing on $10 billion, that is due largely to unfunded pension liabilities. Finance Minister Charlene Johnson admits the government’s two choices boil down to raising premiums and/or cutting benefits.
If you are a low-income family, there’s a tax break on the horizon. For individuals, the government is raising the threshold for paying taxes from $17,547 to $18,547. For families, the new threshold is up to $31,362. Partial tax reductions are now up to $38,006. As well, the government is adding a bridge to access the provincial drug card (from six months to 12) for people who have left social assistance to enter the workforce.
If you’re a senior, there’s a good chance you will receive a small boost in the Low-Income Seniors’ Benefit this fall. The maximum payment this October will hit $1,036, up from $971 last year. About 42,000 seniors are entitled to claim it.
If you own a small business, the corporate income tax rate will drop to three per cent from four per cent. The move puts Newfoundland and Labrador in line with the rate in Nova Scotia, which had been the lowest in Atlantic Canada.
If you require dialysis, there will be an extension of services. About $1.5 million will be spent on a site in Bonavista, and an additional $500,000 is directed to a home-based program, “meaning less travel away from home for treatment” for patients who qualify.
If you run a start-up business, pay attention to the new “Build Ventures” capital fund, in which the government will invest $10 million. The government is collaborating with the feds and other Atlantic provinces, as well as private investors, on the $60-million venture capital fund. Additionally, a new Venture Newfoundland and Labrador Fund will be established.
If your family has been touched by cancer, there’s an extra $7.1 million for new drugs, particularly for breast and prostate cancers. An extra $1.3 million is reserved for new drug therapies at Eastern Health, and $500,000 for a study on safer delivery of radiation services at Western Health.
If you’re heading to the dentist, the cap for basic services goes up from $150 to $200.