Saskatchewan government says budget is on track despite spending bump

Saskatchewan’s Finance Minister Kevin Doherty discusses the province’s 2017 budget at the Legislative Building in Regina, Wednesday, March 22, 2017. After the first three months of the fiscal year, Finance Minister Kevin Doherty’s projection of almost $685-million deficit remains unchanged. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Mark Taylor by The Canadian Press Posted Aug 25, 2017 10:56 am MDT Last Updated Aug 25, 2017 at 3:00 pm MDT AddThis Sharing ButtonsShare to TwitterTwitterShare to FacebookFacebookShare to RedditRedditShare to 電子郵件Email Saskatchewan government says budget is on track, despite spending bump REGINA – The first indication of what impact Saskatchewan’s spring austerity budget has had shows things are on track despite a slight jump in spending.After the first three months of the fiscal year, Finance Minister Kevin Doherty’s projection of almost $685-million deficit remains unchanged.Revenues were about $42 million higher than expected — less than one per cent above the original budget prediction — while expenses were up about $82 million.To make up the difference, the province plans to draw $40 million from a $300-million contingency fund built into this year’s budget.Another $125 million from the fund is being used to cover public-sector salaries while the government tries to push through wage reductions announced earlier this year.Doherty says the province’s economy is getting healthier.“The Saskatchewan economy is performing well so far and for the first time in two years is projected to post positive growth,” the finance minister said in a release Friday.“We still have work to do to control government’s overall costs, including savings we are working hard to achieve in total compensation expense.”The government remains committed to balancing the budget within two years, he added.But the Opposition suggests the results aren’t as positive as the government suggests. Interim NDP Leader Nicole Sarauer said half of the $300-million contingency fund is already spent.“It’s pretty ridiculous for the minister to say that they’re on track. They’ve used up half of their contingency fund in the first quarter alone. I don’t think you have to be an accountant to realize that that’s not really on track,” Sarauer said.The austerity budget delivered in March was — by Premier Brad Wall’s own admission — unpopular with voters because of cuts that were made to help tackle a $1.3-billion deficit from last year.The deficit was due in large part to the ongoing impact of low resource prices.The Saskatchewan Party government took a number of measures in the most recent budget to fight the deficit. They included increasing and expanding the provincial sales tax and shutting down the Crown-owned Saskatchewan Transportation Co.The government also slashed funding to libraries, community-based organizations and to funeral services for people on social assistance, although it has backtracked on those plans. read more