Finance Minister Kevin Falcon released the provincial budget Tuesday.

Finance Minister Kevin Falcon released the provincial budget Tuesday.

B.C. in red, but back in black next year

Provincial government is predicting a $968-million deficit this year.

In a hold-the-line budget released Tuesday, B.C. new home buyers have the loudest reason to cheer thanks to a one time only refundable tax credit of $10,000.

That’s the maximum outlined in the B.C. First Time New Home Buyers Bonus, part of the B.C. budget released by Finance Minister Kevin Falcon on Tuesday.

Seniors fixing up their homes also get a break, a tax credit of up to $1,000, while there will also be a tax break for kids’ fitness and arts programs, working out to $25 per child.

The goodies are the highlights in the budget that will see a review of the carbon tax, increasing by one per cent next year the corporate income tax rate, and raising medical service plan premiums in 2013 by $5 for a family of four.

“There’s no denying, it’s still a tough budget,” said Maple Ridge-Mission MLA Marc Dalton.

He referred to the “slashing and burning” that’s happening with U.S. government budgets.

“To me, we need to be thinking of our children and grand children. If we keep on going this way, we’ll be able to let the belt out in the future.”

That could be as early as 2013 when the government predicts a $154-million surplus.

The government’s predicting a $968-million deficit this year.

The government is also going to review the carbon tax which applies to all types of fuel, including gasoline. The last scheduled carbon tax increase will go ahead on July, from 5.56 cents on a litre of gasoline to 6.67 cents. The budget holds that level while a review of the carbon tax program looks at the rate and offsetting income tax cuts.

The carbon tax  affects greenhouse growers, including those in Maple Ridge and Pitt Meadows, said Dalton.

“We need to evaluate, because we’re alone in this,” he added.

Opposition MLA (Maple Ridge-Pitt Meadows) Michael Sather however pointed out that since the Liberals took power in 2001, health-care premiums have jumped by $732 a year for families and another $366 a year for individuals.

Sather was also surprised at the amount of red ink the government was in. “I thought maybe the deficit would be a little lower than that.”

He criticized the government for advertising its BC Jobs Plan, $15 million, and $700 million for pamphlets, that weren’t published.

He also pointed out that advanced education is taking a one-per-cent reduction.

According to a government news release, the B.C. economy will grow by 1.8 per cent in 2012, 2.2 per cent in 2013 and 2.5 per cent per cent in 2014.

To ensure the government stays in the black, a temporary one-per-cent hike in the corporate income tax rate kicks in April 2014.

However, the small business income tax rate stays at 2.5 per cent.

Spending goes up for health but most remains unchanged for education.

Over three years, the government will be shovelling another $1.5 billion into health care while funding to school districts will remain unchanged although there will be a $165-million fund will be allocated to reduce class sizes for special needs students.

The budget gives another  $237 million over the next three years to the Ministry of Justice to address caseload pressures.

Another $444 million over the next three years goes to support individuals and families. for income and disability assistance.