With projected revenues of $11.61 billion, the government plans to spend $11.54 billion for a General Revenue Fund pre-transfer surplus of $64.8 million and a Summary Financial Statement surplus of $149.8 million whatever those numbers mean.
I’ve done the budget thing three or four times now so I kind of have a handle on how it works. If you want to dig out specific kernels of information, there’s the official Estimates. It’s a 190 page plus document that provides a reasonably detailed breakdown of government expenditures. But for handy reference in the embargoed copies that are handed out the day before the budget is released there’s always a few summary documents that provide key facts and figures.
One table on a special green sheet that’s distributed every year, in fact, is titled “Key Economic Assumptions For [insert year]”. That’s where the provincial government provides estimates for vital economic indicators like Canada’s Real GDP Growth (1.7 per cent in 2013), US GDP (1.9 per cent), the Canadian dollar (98.80US), Oil ($92.50/barrel), Potash ($388.99/tonne) and Perogies ($6 per dozen, $7.20 for ones with ground meat in them).
Okay, I’m just kidding about the last “Economic Assumption”. But, in truth, some budget years estimates that the government makes in this area are no less disconnected from reality — sometimes spectacularly so. In fact, a month or so ago the Sask. Party was ranked near the bottom in some survey some group did about how accurate governments typically are with their budget estimates. Although in fairness to the Sask. Party, being resource, commodity and export-based, our economy is prone to boom-and-bust cycles that are notoriously hard to predict. Then once you’re into the budget year governments have all sorts of tricks at their disposal to massage the books and mask any deficiencies. So who knows what it all means.
The full title of the news release that accompanied the budget was “Balanced Budget Controls Spending While Meeting The Challenges of Growth: More Support For Vulnerable People, Students and Infrastructure”. Considering that government spending is increasing by 3.1 per cent, there will likely be criticism in some quarters of its claim that it’s “controlling” spending. But at first glance there does seem to be some worthwhile initiatives targeted at seniors, post-secondary education, First Nations and Metis people, transition shelters for women and children, municipal revenue sharing, enhancements to transportation infrastructure to accommodate expanded economic activity, etc.
Even the arts (via the creative industries) got some good news. At least, I think they did. In early February, to help facilitate marketing and promotion of cultural product like music, publishing, craft and visual art, the government announced its intention to establish a new Crown Corp called Creative Saskatchewan. When I spoke to SaskMusic’s J.P. Ellson about the initiative, he said to give it a fighting chance to succeed it needed a budget of $3 million. Well, it got $5 million. How much of that is actual new money or just money shifted from other funding areas in arts and culture will require some number crunching. But in the Estimates the Culture budget is shown to be increasing to $34.6 million from $29.4 in 2012-13. And the Saskatchewan Arts Board is supposed to receive a 5 per cent boost in funding to $6.8 million.
I’m doing this blog post up in advance based on embargoed information. If everything goes according to plan, when it appears on the blog at 2:18 p.m. a few of us will be at the Legislature to take in all the drama and political intrigue. So check for more posts later on other budget initiatives. Oh, and one more thing — the Health budget didn’t break $5 billion this year. Instead, it topped out at $4.959 billion.