#NewfoundlandandLabrador, #TomOsborne, #LarryShort, #NalcorEnergy
N.L., Mar 27 (Canadian-Media): Newfoundland and Labrador (N.L.)'s theme of this year's budget is "building for our future," but Finance Minister Tom Osborne has pointed out the province is projecting a deficit of $683 million for the 2018 fiscal year, media reports said..
"Our goal is to manage through this tough phase," Osborne said in his budget speech, delivered in the House of Assembly last week.
Inspite of being optimistic and its continued plan to balance the books within four years the situation reportedly looked bleak for 2018.
For the books to be balanced in four years time, the government reportedly expects to spend $450 million less in 2022 than it has projected to spend this year.
2018 budget reportedly has no big new spending, taxes or cuts but other details are lacking.
A $683-million shortfall is projected in 2018-19.
In a year's time, the province will have an estimated net debt of $15.5 billion on the books — nearly double the level of a decade ago.
"It's a nothingburger.- financial analyst Larry Short"It's a nothingburger," said St. John's financial analyst Larry Short, who attended pre-budget briefings with CBC journalists.
Short said the Liberals were deferring the toughest decisions needed to balance the books for years to come.
The 2018 budget speech did not contain any mention of layoffs to come, although Osborne did note that 795 positions in government departments have been eliminated over the past two years to maintain service delivery and protect a vulnerable economy.
The province will instead focus on voluntary retirements in the bureaucracy to reduce its salary tab.
In the longer term, Osborne said, the province will continue to look for savings by reducing discretionary spending, and working with management and unions to address issues as overtime and sick leave.
The government also reportedly plans to consolidate its vehicle fleet under one department, which will result in the reduction of the number of vehicles by 10 percent.
There will also be a move toward making it easier to access government services online.
The 15 percent tax on automobile insurance will be cut by two percent on Jan. 1, 2019, and will see further one percent reductions in each of the next three years. In 2022, the auto insurance tax rate will be 10 percent.
The move only affects automobiles; home insurance will remain at 15 percent.
And a new search and rescue volunteer tax credit will be introduced for first responders in 2019.
There were also plans to spend $619.7 million on infrastructure.
And nearly $34 million has been set aside to fund the public inquiry into Muskrat Falls over the next two years.
The province will spend $724 million to Nalcor Energy this year, an investment that will support the completion of the troubled hydro megaproject.
(Reporting by Asha Bajaj)