**Updated** N.S. Liberals bring in middle class tax cut, surplus in pre-election budget
**Updated at 4:35 p.m., Thursday, April 27th**
Nova Scotia's Liberal government is bringing in a broad middle class tax cut as it tables a 2017-18 budget with a $25.9 million surplus, seeding the ground for what many believe is an imminent election call.
The surplus in the $10.5-billion budget means back-to-back surpluses for the government despite finishing fiscal 2016-17 with a $129-million spending spree.
The government is pledging to reduce taxes by an average of $160 for more than 500,000 Nova Scotians by increasing the basic personal exemption by up to $3,000 for taxable income up to $75,000 beginning Jan. 1 of next year.
As a result, an additional 60,000 people will no longer pay provincial income taxes.
There are a wide array of spending increases, including $3.7-million to add 30 new sites with early learning programs for four-year-olds.
The province is also offering $5.1-million more for home care and $3.2 million to restore previous cuts to nursing home food and recreational budgets.
Highlights from 2017-2018 Budget for Northern Nova Scotia (via the Government of Nova Soctia):
Highlights in Budget 2017-2018 for northern Nova Scotia include:
-- upgrades to Highway 104 in Antigonish County - Paq'tnkek
-- funding for a new Primary to Grade 4 school in Bible Hill and a new Primary to Grade 12 school in Tatamagouche
-- renovations to River Hebert District High School in Cumberland County and Frank H. MacDonald Elementary School, Sutherlands River, Pictou County
-- a skilled trades centre at Amherst High School
-- funding for emergency room expansion and pharmacy redevelopment at the Aberdeen Hospital in New Glasgow
-- funding for the North Cumberland Health Centre project
-- funding for the construction of a new trades innovation centre at the NSCC Pictou campus
-- off-highway vehicle pilot projects in Amherst and Sherbrooke, Guysborough Co.
Northern Nova Scotia will also benefit from provincewide investments including:
-- reducing taxes for more than 500,000 people through an increase of up to $3,000 to the basic personal amount, for incomes up to $75,000
-- increasing the small business tax threshold to $500,000 from $350,000, reducing taxes for 1,800 small businesses
-- support for the recruitment and retention of doctors
-- a three-year investment in SHIFT: Nova Scotia's Action Plan for an Aging Population
-- funding to increase access to affordable housing, in partnership with the federal government
-- a new target to reduce red tape for businesses
-- enhancements to the Graduate to Opportunity program to help recent graduates land their first job in Nova Scotia
-- 30 new pre-primary sites with early learning programming for four-year-olds with a plan to expand to provincewide in four years
-- funding to hire school psychologists and speech pathologists
-- the expansion of the reading recovery program in schools and an increased investment in coding and computer skills initiatives for Primary to Grade 12 students
-- improvements to rural Internet access
Highlights from the 2017-2018 Nova Scotia Budget (via the Nova Scotia Government)
Budget investments in infrastructure include:
-- major highway projects and four new interchanges on 100-series highways, part of a seven-year plan to twin three sections of 100 series highways
-- new and upgraded health-care facilities in Halifax, Dartmouth and Hants County to support the QEII redevelopment project
-- repairing and rebuilding gravel roads - $10 million each year of a new multi-year program
-- new schools in Spryfield, Tatamagouche, Bridgetown, Bible Hill, Sheet Harbour, Eastern Passage, Dartmouth, Halifax and Yarmouth
-- $40 million for municipal clean water and waste water projects
-- $38 million for affordable housing, including creating new affordable housing units and improving affordable housing options, in partnership with the federal government.
Budget investments in youth and jobs include:
-- $3.7 million to add 30 new pre-primary sites with early learning programming for four-year-olds with a plan to extend it provincewide in four years
-- $1.7 million more for the Graduate to Opportunity program and $1.7 million to fund a new program for employers to hire recent master's and PhD graduates
-- $1.3 million to eliminate the tuition apprentices pay for technical training
-- $2.1 million for coding and computer skills and to expand the Reading Recovery Program to 73 more schools
-- $1.8 million to increase community and mental health supports for students, through the SchoolsPlus program
-- $1.4 million for additional school psychologists and speech-language pathologists
-- $800,000 to support families with children with autism through a new pilot program and regional centres.
Budget investments in new ideas for a better economy include:
-- reducing taxes for 1,800 small businesses by increasing the small business tax threshold to $500,000 from $350,000
-- $14.5 million for rural high-speed Internet
-- $1.3 million to increase opportunities for more export and trade, including a new export accelerator program
-- $4 million to support innovation initiatives, including a new rebate program and more support for business startups
-- $500,000 in additional funding to double the Small Business Development program
-- $2 million to revitalize the province's key tourism sites
-- $2.1 million to support the new Culture Action Plan.
Budget investments in supports for an aging population include:
-- $395,000 to establish a social innovation lab focused on aging
-- $50,000 for a community Internet/digital literacy training project
-- $30,000 to promote entrepreneurship for older adults
-- $3.2 million to increase food budgets and enhance recreational programming for residents in long-term care facilities
-- $250,000 more for the Seniors Safety and Age-Friendly Community grant programs
-- $7.9 million to meet the needs of Nova Scotians age 65 and older enrolled in the Seniors Pharmacare Program.
Budget investments in healthy people and communities include:
-- reducing taxes for more than 500,000 people in the middle class and people who need it most by increasing the basic personal amount by up to $3,000, effective Jan. 1, 2018
-- $2 million to create and begin to implement a plan to address poverty in Nova Scotia
-- advancing plans for satellite dialysis units at hospitals in Bridgewater, Kentville, Digby and Glace Bay, and expanding dialysis services in Halifax and Dartmouth
-- $5.1 million more for home care, including increases for the self-managed care and the caregiver benefit programs
-- $6 million to advance new collaborative care teams across the province
-- $1.2 million increase to help foster parents meet the day-to-day needs of the children in their care
-- $2.4 million more to support recruitment and retention of doctors
-- $3.7 million more to provide additional orthopedic surgeries and offer prehabilitation services to help people prepare for surgery
-- $3.2 million to enhance mental health programs
-- $3.9 million to support more people with disabilities to live independently in the community
-- $1.1 million to continue work to address sexual violence.