Saskatchewan finished the last fiscal year with its biggest-ever budget surplus — $641 million — thanks to revenues that were 25 per cent higher than budgeted in 2007.
Although spending was up by about $246 million in the fiscal year that ended March 31, the province took in $2 billion more than it had budgeted for in the spring of 2007, according to the province's public accounts released on Friday.
Much of the extra cash coming in — $810 million — came from natural resources like oil and potash, commodities whose prices have been soaring over the past year. Tax revenue is also way up — by about $629 million.
Even with extra spending, the province took in $1.3 billion more than it paid out. Half of that went to the province's rainy day fund and the other half went to debt reduction.
The government finds itself wondering how it will spend all the extra money that continues to flow into its coffers, Finance Minister Rod Gantefoer said, adding he's open to ideas.
"The premier has asked us all to go out into our constituencies and across the province through the course of the summer and solicit advice from our constituents and the people of Saskatchewan," Gantefoer said.
However, opposition politicians like the NDP's Deb Higgins said the government should share the wealth.
"People are struggling with the cost of day-to-day living, whether it's gas and fuel at the pumps, or whether it's housing, whether it's the projection of increased utility rates that may be coming in the fall," she said. "People like to see the government going good, but they'd also like to share in that, too."
One thing people can expect soon is a plan to reduce property and education taxes, Gantefoer said.