Gallant government to table provincial budget today

(CP) - The New Brunswick government will be bringing in some cautious and targeted spending increases in its budget on Tuesday, February 7th, as the debt continues to grow.

The budget to be presented later today includes a 5.4 per cent hike in grants to community colleges, and more money for student financial assistance.

It also includes $2.4 million more for pre-school autism intervention programs, and there will be a small decrease to the small business tax effective April 1 this year, from 3.5 to three per cent.

However, political scientist Tom Bateman, a teacher at St. Thomas University in Fredericton, says the province's $13.4 billion debt is looming in the background.

He says with the province's population aging, the pressures to spend more will only grow, as the Liberals have committed to exempt health and education from cuts.

He says continuing a freeze on politicians' salaries and other restraint measures are ``drops in the bucket'' in the bigger picture of public debt.