Nova Scotia tables budget with modest tax cuts, $211-million deficit

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Metro Halifax

HALIFAX — Nova Scotia is forecasting a slightly smaller deficit in a spring budget that also offers modest tax cuts.

The province’s NDP government tabled a $9.5-billion budget Tuesday with a projected deficit of $211.2-million for 2012-13.

That is lower than the $260.8-million deficit it reported last month, mainly due to spending reductions by government departments and reduced debt servicing costs. Finance Minister Graham Steele said the budgetary figures meant the government would meet a key commitment to balance the books next year.

“In a word, this budget is steady,” Steele said in his budget speech.

“Next year, this province will have a real, sustainable surplus based on reliable revenues and reasonable expenditures.”

As promised, the budget contained a number of personal income tax measures that the government said would save 78,000 Nova Scotians about $7.5 million. The savings would come from increases to three non-refundable personal income tax credits, including for single parents with children under 18, couples and anyone with a disability. Also, as announced Monday, the government said it would be reducing its small business tax rate by half a percentage point from four per cent to 3.5 per cent resulting in savings of $10 million annually.

It’s the third straight year the tax has been cut by half a percentage point and the government says that will result in a savings of up to $6,000 per year per business beginning Jan. 1. As part of its cost-cutting measures, the government said it will proceed with a previously announced 1.3 per cent reduction in overall funding to school boards. The $13.4 million cut comes as the province braces for an expected enrolment decline of 1.7 per cent this year. But spending for heath care is up 2.5 per cent to $3.9 billion.

The government says it will also close its office in Ottawa, saving $500,000 a year. The government said its overall net debt, which stands at $13.3 billion, is projected to hit $13.7 billion as of March 31, 2013.

Geographic location: Nova Scotia, Ottawa

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