Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

A balancing act

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It's an economic game plan that counts on ordinary Manitobans to pay more to get their nails done, drive their cars and insure their homes in order to slay the provincial deficit by 2014.

It's a budget that banks on a handful of tax and fee increases to raise another $200 million in revenue.

At the same time, Stan Struthers' first budget as finance minister tightens the provincial purse-strings except for key front-line services such as health, education and family services.

"We understand that if we're going to get back into balance in 2014, then we need to bend that expenditure curve downward," Struthers said. "It needs to come down to the level that where revenues are and we need to work on bringing revenues up."




The provincial take on gas taxes has been frozen at 11.5 cents a litre for 20 years. By bringing it up to 14 cents on May 1 -- and adding a three-cent tax on purple (farm) gas for the first time -- that will add $50 million in new revenue.

Struthers said money will go to fixing flood-damaged bridges and roads and, in the longer term, be dedicated to upgrading the province's other roads and highways.

"Every penny of this new revenue will be put back into infrastructure, guaranteed by law," he said.

Plus, on renewal of their vehicle registration, Manitobans will pay $35 more to keep their cars, trucks and trailers on the road, likely by July 1.

The new money from this, estimated to be about $16 million a year, will also go toward infrastructure, Struthers said.

Having paid more to gas up your car and license it, the hit to your bottom line won't stop when you get to the spa or the tattoo parlour.

In other words, this budget broadens the provincial sales-tax net. So that trip to the spa, fancy manicure or haircuts that cost more than $50 or tattoos and body piercings will all be subject to the seven per cent provincial sales tax.

The PST will also be added to prescribed insurance premiums, such as property insurance, group life insurance, trip cancellation insurance, baggage insurance and land-titles insurance.

The government estimates broadening the PST will raise more than $106.5 million.

"These measures will help ensure the long-term sustainability of the services Manitobans value most,'' Struthers said in his budget speech.

But Progressive Conservative Leader Hugh McFadyen said the increased tax load on Manitobans is unfair.

"When they're increasing taxes by $184 million on Manitoba families and still running a deficit of roughly $500 million, you know you've got a severe problem," he said.



They aren't huge increases, but they all add up. So child-abuse registry checks jump to $15 from $10, which will add $203,000 to provincial coffers. Certified copies of land-titles instruments are going up, depending on the document, to raise $3.5 million. Even births, marriages and deaths will cost more -- at least the certificates from the province for each of those key life-and-death moments. They jump to $30 from $25 to flow an estimated $400,000 more to the province.

At the same time, Struthers hopes to cash in by selling $75 million worth of unspecified government buildings.

"We have a number of government buildings at the end of their lifetime," Struthers said. "It makes sense to me to see if somebody out there can put those buildings to use and help us in terms of meeting some of our targets."

The province could also sell off some of its land.

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition April 18, 2012 A1


Updated on Wednesday, April 18, 2012 at 8:05 AM CDT: Adds video

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