Thursday, March 25, 2010

Saskatchewan Budget 2009

Rather than linking to the pundits and show you what everyone else thinks, I'm going to link to the original documents and tell you what I think.

At first blush, this isn't a very surprising budget. The large themes have been leaked through the Opposition's preemptive outcry, those being belt tightening and reduction of the civil service. The larger theme has also been that the budget will be balanced.

Now the NDP will tell you that that's not the case. They will say that transferring money from the "fiscal stabilization" fund does not balance a budget. Unfortunately, they too balanced the books in that way for years, and as such, they really don't have the moral authority to really stress that argument. They are right, but they have no moral high ground from which to speak.

The cuts to the civil service is a little better than what was leaked - assuming you like the civil service. A reduction of 15% over 4 years would seem to be a major change, except that it will be more than that if you take into account increases in salaries and benefits over those years. Still the idea is sound, and the reason why comes down to simple economics.

The reason why a person's wage increases year over year isn't an altruistic attempt to let the employee keep 100% of their purchasing power as inflation acts to decrease the employee's purchasing power. No, the reason why a person's wage increases is because in theory, they get more efficient at their job the longer they do it, and that efficiency is what earns them a raise. The civil service has doubled in the last 50 years despite the population of the province remaining fairly flat, and as a result, it is reasonable to assume that there is a little bit of bloat in government. This is normal in a venerable institution that gets everything it wants when it asks for it.

The increases to tobacco and liquor taxes, while unexpected, aren't something to get excited about unless you happen to be an aboriginal person who suddenly can only smoke a pack a day without paying taxes. Of course, considering everyone else in society says smoking is bad for you, and research generally backs up that position, it makes sense that the provincial government would attempt to influence through taxes the behaviour of a people who until this point have been markedly unaffected by previous attempts to reduce smoking statistics.

With everything else, it seems like it's business as usual. A cut here, and reinvestment there. This, quite frankly, is what every budget should look like. It's nice to see a government that isn't attempting to buy votes between elections.

No comments:

Post a Comment