Tax cuts and a kindergarten program in the schools highlight the new Prince Edward Island budget brought down Friday by a government widely expected to call an election with days.

The $1.5 million kindergarten program will end P.E.I's status as the only province without a publicly-funded kindergarten system.

It is to be in place by the fall of 2000, and Provincial Treasurer Pat Mella said in her Budget Speech that it would work in partnership with the Island's private kindergartens.

"Our objective is to provide our youngest students with a positive head start, and ensure a standard level of program, while at the same time supporting those who have been providing such services," Mella said.

On the tax front, Mella said personal income taxes will be cut by 1% this year, the same reduction as last year.

As well, there will be a tax credit for low-income earners. More than 4,800 low-income Islanders won't pay any taxes at all next year.

In all, Prince Edward Island residents will pay $12.2 million less in provincial taxes.

The budget, introduced barely an hour after the opening of the legislature, is widely seen as the unofficial launch of the Conservative government's election campaign.

Premier Pat Binns is expected to call the election at his nominating convention next Tuesday, with the vote to be held Monday, April 17.

Click here to read the Budget Speech