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NDP government just keeps digging

The Selinger government insists it is spending prudently, that the deficits that it now concedes will continue beyond 2014 are necessary to preserve the basic services Manitobans would not want to see cut, and some deserve more money. Interesting, then, that spending on health care and education will fall by more than $45 million total.

The numbers, included in the government's second-quarter report for 2012, ending Sept. 30, show government is now forecasting it will blow past its budgeted departmental expenditures by $153.6 million by the end of the fiscal year. The Finance Department expects that to be offset by an additional $63.7 million in revenues, primarily through greater corporate and personal income taxes.




It adds up to a core deficit that will be $98 million more than budgeted. That deficit is reduced by dipping into the rainy-day savings fund, to bring it to $546 million at the end of the year.

These details explain why, earlier this month, Premier Greg Selinger changed his tune from blaming the flood last year for the deficit to the lagging and uncertain "economic conditions." And while the forecasts for economic growth have slowed for the province, the revenues indicate that Manitoba continues to weather the global troubles very well.

What has driven the deficit up this year is overspending. The government says this year it expects to spend more on child protection services -- the expense and the number of children coming into care are rising -- but also on public safety and disability services. The explanation is that more people charged and jailed are fuelling expenses, as are the number of disabled adults living in the community. But it is hard to see how neither of those factors was not anticipated and budgeted for, why mid-year spending has to be suddenly ramped up by a significant $66 million.

Once again, had the NDP government stuck to its plan, the budgeted deficit could have come in lower, even with the extra $24 million it plans to add to child protection services. No doubt there will be a string of press conferences to announce cheques are being written because the province is doing its job to "focus on things that matter most to Manitobans," as the preface to the second-quarter report described it.

But it's doubtful the government could call it an emergency-injection of funds. This is the running narrative of the NDP's spending habit, and why a province that has barely noticed a global recession is deeply, unnecessarily mired in debt.

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition December 21, 2012 A12

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Mike Deal | @wfpmdeal

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