8 ways the New Brunswick budget may touch your pocketbook

New Brunswick’s wealthiest residents, seniors and those who buy gasoline are being called upon by the Brian Gallant government in its first budget to try and help get the province’s books in order.

Drivers, nursing home residents, the wealthy and ambulance users among those who will pay more

New  Brunswick's wealthiest residents, seniors and those who buy gasoline are being called upon by the Brian Gallant government in its first budget to try and help get the province's books in order.

Government spending will increase slightly in 2015-16 to $8.03 billion and the government will be looking to residents in a variety of ways to increase revenues.

Finance Minister Roger Melanson said his budget next year is likely to be even harsher than the 2015-16 document he released Tuesday. (Jacques Poitras / CBC)
"Not all New Brunswickers have the same financial capacity to help us get our fiscal house in order," said Roger Melanson in his budget speech.  "That is why we are asking those with the greatest ability to pay to contribute more to fixing our fiscal situation."

Here's a quick look at how the pocketbooks of New Brunswickers stand to be affected by Tuesday's budget in 2015-16.

1. Drivers see taxes increase on gasoline

The tax on unleaded gasoline will increase by 1.9 cents a litre for unleaded and 2.3 cents a litre for diesel at midnight Tuesday, raising an additional $28.2 million for government annually.  New Brunswick will now have the same gasoline tax rate as Nova Scotia.

2. Two new tax brackets created for the richest New Brunswickers

The top rate for income tax on New Brunswickers with incomes between $150,000 and $250,000 annually will increase from 17.84 per cent to 21 per cent.  Those with taxable incomes greater than $250,000 will see their top tax rate increase from 17.84 per cent to 25.75 per cent, effective Jan. 1, 2015. The measures will raise an additional $30 million.

"Given the relatively low cost of living in the Maritimes, coupled with a quality of life that surpasses many other jurisdictions, our government feels that asking our one per cent richest citizens to contribute more is reasonable, fair and progressive," said Melanson.

3. Financial cap on nursing home care is lifted

The current cap of $113 a day for nursing home care is being removed for those who are deemed able to afford to pay more toward the true cost of $233 a day. "You could be wealthy or from an upper-income family and your care is subsidized by government to the same degree as a senior with far fewer means," said Melanson.  "We must find a fairer and more progressive way to calculate the amount that a senior pays for his or her nursing home care.

4. Seniors' savings now considered in ability to pay

When a senior's ability to pay for nursing home care is assessed, their financial assets such as savings or investments will no longer be exempt from determining how much the person can pay. The family home will continue to be exempt from the assessment.

5. Ambulance fee waiver removed

The waiver on the $130 cost of ambulance fees is being removed for those who do not have private insurance coverage.  Fees will continue to be waived for those who require financial assistance.

6. Blue Cross premiums to  increase

Premiums will increase an unspecified amount for seniors who are covered by the Medavie Blue Cross seniors prescription drug program. There has not been a premium increase in the program since 2009. Drugs for low-income seniors will continue to be subsidized through a separate plan.

"Although we are asking some seniors with greater means to pay more for their prescriptions and long-term care, our first priority is, and will remain, providing supports that help seniors stay independent longer at a cost they can afford," said Melanson.

7. Tuition rebate program for post-secondary graduates cancelled.

The rebate program of $20,000 maximum for graduates who remain in the province and work after graduation is being cancelled.

"We feel there are better ways to support students who need it most. The New Brunswick Tuition Rebate helped only those students who have already graduated and are collecting salaries. It did nothing to help needy students enter the system in the first place.

8. Free parking for public servants to be eliminated

The government will adopt a phased approach to eliminating free parking for government employees in urban centres.  "This will encourage the use of our municipal transit systems and carpooling, which will benefit both the environment and the bottom line of the municipalities and the province.                             


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