Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Alberta Budget 2008: Health Care Premiums are History

Finally. Effective January 1, 2009. That's the biggest sound bite to come out of Tuesday's budget. Considering the fact that this province has been swimming in oil money for so long, that move is long overdue.

The Calgary Herald has more:

Spending up 12%

Finance Minister Iris Evans' first financial blueprint projects $37 billion in operating and capital spending this year and a relatively small surplus of $1.6 billion, based on extremely conservative commodity prices, such as oil averaging $78 per barrel this year.

The Cons always low ball the oil money projections so they can claim "success" each year when they pretend to act surprised at how much of a surplus actually results from that little game. Then they use that little trick to talk about how wonderful they are. It's gotten pretty old.

As for that increased spending, here are a few details:

Despite all the spending, no new K-12 schools or post-secondary facilities are planned for the fiscal year, although operating budgets will see substantial increases. The health budget will see a $1.1-billion increase in program spending, sending the total health tab to more than $13 billion.

More details here on the official budget page and here from the Herald.

Note: we're still playing catch up here from all of the slashing and burning the Cons did during the 90s to the health care system, education, and infrastructure spending - the 3 main areas of concern for all Albertans (the majority of whom kept re-electing this useless party anyway...insanity is doing the same thing over and over, expecting different results...lots of that happening in this province, obviously.)

But while Albertans may save more cash, very little is being socked away for the future. The government has allocated $279 million to inflation proof the province's primary savings vehicle, the Heritage Savings Trust Fund, but doesn't plan any direct deposits into the account.

Expect grumblings from fiscal conservatives over that issue although I don't know what they're complaining about since the Cons have kept stashing money away in that fund for a supposedly rainy day despite the more pressing needs Albertans have had that some of that money could have been spent on.

Fiscal cons have also been on the government's back for its pattern of 'spending like drunken sailors' under Ralph Klein (who actually was a drunk, but not a sailor), so expect blowback on that front too.

Exhibit A:

"We have some very serious concern about this government's addiction to spending," Scott Hennig, Alberta director of the Canadian Taxpayers Federation, said Monday on the eve of the budget. "It's irresponsible and not sustainable."

Afaic, if they'd actually spent more of that drunken sailor money on helping the poor in this crazy boom economy, they might have gotten some kudos from me. But the tories rarely spend on anything they can't see a fiscal return from, so that isn't surprising.

Here's a view into how they choose their priorities:

Funding boosts also will go to some controversial programs, with $7 million more headed to the Horse Racing and Breeding Renewal Program, and an additional $3-million for bingo associations. Combined, the two increases equal the same amount of new money dedicated to after-school children's programs in Alberta.

Gambling v children? Look who wins.

I'll add opposition party reaction as it comes in...

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