The Yukon Liberal government tabled its second record-breaking budget in the legislature this afternoon.
At $1.47 billion, it’s the largest in territorial history, surpassing last year’s $1.44-billion fiscal blueprint.
The 2018-19 budget plans for an annual deficit of $4.5 million for the fiscal year, which will begin April 1.
This is a significant decrease from the $49-million deficit projected for 2018-19, when the current fiscal year’s budget was tabled last April.
The deficit projected for 2019-2020 is also much smaller than forecast last year: $6.9 million instead of $58 million.
“For too long, Government of Yukon budgeting was a year-to-year process,” Premier and Finance Minister Sandy Silver said in his budget address in the legislature.
Capital projects were built “without thought to a long-term strategic approach,” and operations and maintenance costs were not fully considered, he said.
“The Government of Yukon’s finances were on an unsustainable path. Significant deficits were projected for coming years.”
The whys of the deficit re-calibration will be explored further in the coming days, but Silver offered some explanation.
Deficits are not expected to be as large as first thought, “in part because of the fiscal approach our government is taking to fully account for costs.”
Further, he said, “we will continue communicating with Yukoners about our plan to return government finances to surplus.”
In 2020-21, the government is now projecting a very slim, $1.8-million surplus, instead of a predicted $42-million deficit.
This year, the majority of the Yukon’s budgeted revenue is coming from the federal government, as always.
Transfers from Ottawa have seen a modest increase from last year, and now sit at more than $1 billion.
This figure includes a new $400,000 transfer resulting from the legalization of cannabis, expected to occur late this summer or early fall.
Revenue from a tax on legal pot is to be split 75/25 between the provincial/territorial and federal governments, respectively.
Other tax revenues – personal and corporate income tax and tobacco tax being the largest three – are bringing in $118.5 million.
There are no new tax changes introduced in this budget. (The tobacco tax will rise, as planned in last year’s budget.)
Fees will also remain unchanged.
Carbon pricing revenues are absent from the budget, as the Yukon government waits for more clarity from Ottawa. The tax will not be applied in the territory until Jan. 1, 2019.
The government plans to spend $1.2 billion in operations and maintenance (O&M) funding, a small increase from the $1.1 billion it budgeted to spend in this category last year.
The largest spending increases are in the Departments of Health and Social Services, Education and Environment.
In Health and Social Services, which comprises 34 per cent of total O&M spending, increases are explained by $24 million budgeted for the opening of the Whistle Bend Continuing Care Facility, $2.3 million for operating 10 new beds in the Thomson Centre, and $6 million for anticipated boosts to insured health programs.
Increases in Education include $6 million for various elements of public school education, and $1 million for Labour Market Development Agreement
Increased Environment O&M spending involves $4.6 million for environmental remediation work at the Marwell Tar Pit.
Under the operations and maintenance budget for 2018-19, estimates for the 10 largest departmental budgets and how they compare to last year’s estimates are as follows:
• Health and Social Services – $400 million, up 10 per cent from last year’s $364 million;
• Education – $183 million, up four per cent from last year’s $176 million;
• Highways and Public Works – $141 million, up three per cent from last year’s $137 million;
• Energy, Mines and Resources – $76 million, up from last year’s $75 million;
• Community Services – $92 million, up three per cent from last year’s $89 million;
• Justice – $73 million, up four per cent from last year’s $70 million;
• Public Service Commission – $48 million, a drop of $1 million from last year’s $49 million;
• Environment – $46 million, up 10 per cent from last year’s $41 million;
• Tourism and Culture – $28 million, same as last year’s estimate of $28 million; and
• Executive Council Office – $21 million, down 12 per cent from last year’s $24 million.
The capital budget for 2018-19 is just over $280 million, which represents a 10 per cent decrease from last year’s $309 million capital budget. (See story below.)