2019-2020 budget passes

The government says the 2019-2020 budget passed in the legislature on Tuesday.

In a press release, the province says the provincial government tabled the balanced budget on March 19, and in it aimed to lay the foundation for a sustainable financial future for New Brunswick and reduce the provinces net debt for the first time in more than a decade.

Finance and Treasury Board Minister Ernie Steeves, says, "It is a balanced budget with a surplus of $23 million and a reduction in the debt of $49 million, a first in the last 13 years. Our budget is a new beginning for our province. It is a plan to restore confidence and to ensure all New Brunswickers, their children and grandchildren have a secure future."

The budget includes $9.823 billion in government spending and a multi-year fiscal plan, under which the government forecasts a surplus of $23 million this fiscal year.

The government says it forecasts a surplus of $23 million this fiscal year, $33 million next year, $63 million in 2021-22, and $71 million in 2022-23.

According to yesterday's press release, the highlights of the 2019-2020 budget include:

Growing a sustainable economy
- The budget does not contain any new tax increases.
- The government will maintain the current rules for the New Brunswick Small Business Corporate Income Tax Rate rather than implementing the federal passive income tax measure.
- The front licence plate will be eliminated.
- The fee paid by volunteer firefighters for their licence plates will be eliminated.
- The budget includes a revised regulatory environment for repayable financial assistance programs in the agriculture, aquaculture and fisheries sector.
- The government will ask the federal government to allow for a change of scope of the twinning of Route 11 that will exclude the requirement to construct the remaining bridges and structures that are part of the project. This would allow for the continuation and completion of an affordable twinning to Bouctouche.
- The government will also seek further changes to the scope of work to continue to enhance Route 11 to Miramichi.

Making government work
- The government will introduce a new level of financial reporting, which will include, for the first time ever, actual quarterly results in addition to a year-end forecast.
- The government has increased funding to the Office of the Auditor General by $1 million for 2019-20, giving it the resources it needs to protect the interests of taxpayers, and to hold government to account.
- The government will introduce a new program, which will provide funding for members of the legislative assembly to support projects that are important to the communities they represent.
- The Clerk of the Executive Council will also serve as the Chief Operating Officer, tasked with reviewing and improving the way the government delivers its services to ensure the civil service delivers high-quality programs and services based on clear measures and evidence-based evaluations.
- The Department of Finance and the Treasury Board have been merged into one department that is now responsible for human resources services previously delivered by Service New Brunswick.

Building a sustainable health-care system
- An investment of $2.4 million will be made in 2019-20 to implement a new nursing human resource strategy, which will include new full-time positions, more internationally educated nurses, stronger education programs and measures to improve retention.
- A new primary health-care demonstration pilot project, staffed primarily by nurse practitioners, will be launched to help more people access high-quality health care with the capacity for 6,000 patients once fully operational.
- The budget includes investments in process improvements to reduce wait times, with an initial focus on hip and knee replacement surgeries.

A path to a sustainable education system
- The government will continue to work within the existing 10-year education plans, maintaining what is working and adjusting as required.
- The designated New Brunswick Early Learning Centres initiative will continue.
- An additional $1 million has been invested to increase wages for trained early childhood educators.
- A red-tape reduction commission will be established to identify and eliminate regulations that distract teachers from classroom teaching.
- Report card formats will be reviewed to ensure they are meeting the needs of teachers, students and parents.
- The government has unveiled a renewed bursary program for students attending both publicly-funded and private sector universities and colleges in New Brunswick.
- The government brought forward legislation to reintroduce the New Brunswick Tuition Tax Credit.

Providing sustainable social services
- The government will provide funding to begin implementing key recommendations from the Child and Youth Advocate and the Savoury Report.
- The government will invest more than $16 million to increase wages for home support workers.
- The government will support research to identify initiatives to help seniors live safely, securely and independently longer.
- The budget includes increased per diems from $135 to $142.50 for memory care beds in the province.