B.C. budget still in the black, barely

Finance Minister Mike de Jong says job growth isn't where it should be, sales tax collection to be stepped up

Finance Minister Mike de Jong shows changes in budget update

VICTORIA – With half of the fiscal year in the books, the B.C. government is clinging to a small surplus that was promised in this spring’s election.

Finance Minister Mike de Jong presented the province’s second quarter budget update Wednesday, projecting that the fiscal year will end in March with a surplus of $165 million. That’s up $29 million from the September budget update. Corporate tax revenue is higher than expected, making up for personal tax revenue that was $284 million less than forecast.

Part of the decline in personal income tax is due to employment, which de Jong said was disappointingly “flat lined” so far in 2013. He said unemployment has “dropped modestly” and full-time employment has grown, but the province has work to do to meet its jobs plan goal.

NDP finance critic Mike Farnworth said the heavily advertised jobs plan is a flop, and the unemployment rate is down largely because 12,500 people have left B.C. to seek work since the plan was launched two years ago.

“Just look at the job numbers,” Farnworth said. “By their own admission, they’re pathetic.”

Another revenue loss for the B.C. treasury is provincial sales tax revenue, which is running $100 million below the budget forecast for the year. De Jong said one factor in that is that not all businesses have registered to collect and remit the PST since the province cancelled the harmonized sales tax last March.

More than 102,000 businesses have applied to register for the PST, and the finance ministry is continuing to assist businesses with seminars and one-on-one consultations on switching over.

De Jong said finance ministry staff have given businesses time to adjust and comply, but the grace period is ending.

“As we move into 2014, we’re going to expect people to fulfil their obligations and remit PST that they are obliged to, and officials will be pursuing that with the diligence that you would expect,” de Jong said.

 

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