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Save money now, spend later
Finance minister holds off on spending to save for future infrastructure projects

Danielle Sachs
Northern News Services
Published Friday, May 25, 2012

Finance Minister Michael Miltenberger said he won't be buying a new pair of shoes for another couple of years.

NNSL photo/graphic

Finance Minister Michael Miltenberger released the first of four budgets out of a four-year cycle yesterday. He called it a "status quo" budget. - Danielle Sachs/NNSL photo

Wearing sturdy, worn-in yet shined footwear, the minister presented the 2012-2013 budget in front of a crowded house and public gallery yesterday.

It was referred to as a "status quo" budget by Miltenberger. At $1.44 billion dollars, the budget aims to maintain services and programs currently offered, and keep major infrastructure spending for the last two budgets in the four-year budget cycle.

Miltenberger said the government needs to replenish its cash reserves before it can add to spending.

With a surplus of $74 million, this is the first surplus budget in five years, but total debt is expected to reach $656 million in March 2013. That's up $140.2 million from last year.

While the borrowing limit has been set at $800 million, Miltenberger said the GNWT is not in a position to borrow for operations and expenditures.

"We use the borrowing limit to make strategic investments," he said.

This is the first budget of the 17th legislative assembly and represents an increase of 3.7 per cent in expenditures.

There won't be any new taxes. However, consistent with the 2010-2011 budget, property tax mill rates, liquor mark-ups and a number of fees were adjusted for inflation.

'We can maintain the things we have now, but if you want to add programs you start having to make difficult choices," said Miltenberger.

There are limited infrastructure investments, at $124.2 million, that were approved in December 2011 that will still continue.

The major spending in the 2012-2013 budget is towards social programs. Some $818 million is budgeted for education, health care, social services, housing, policing and corrections.

Another $1.2 million is going into a program to support the transition between public and market rentals.

Another million is going to fund the previously announced new public housing rent scale.

Mayor Gord Van Tighem was in the public gallery watching the address. Although Yellowknife wasn't specifically mentioned in the budget, Van Tighem said that's something he's used to.

"In the 12 budgets I've sat through the highest Yellowknife was ever mentioned was three," he said.

Van Tighem said overall, he was happy with the budget. "What affects the territory affects us," he said.

"It's a good budget, but it's a boring budget," he added.

Others were disappointed with the lack of environmental initiatives.

"It's quite disappointing for me," said Weledeh MLA Bob Bromley. "Without a renewable energy strategy (the) cost of living will continue to rise."

He also expressed dismay that as development and exports continue to rise the Heritage Fund remains empty.

Christine Wenman, from Ecology North, agreed.

"The need there is really substantial," she said.

"We need to be looking at long-term strategies to make things more affordable."

2012 Budget

Budget by the numbers

  • Total expenditures: Up to $1.4 billion from $1.34 billion last year
  • Forecasted revenues: Up to $1.52 billion from $1.36 billion last year
  • Total debt: Estimated to reach $656 million at March 31, 2013 up from $515.8 million last year

Expenditures by department 2012-2013 (2012-2011)
  • Legislative assembly: $18.5 million ($19.76 million)
  • Executive: $22.86 million ($19.13 million)
  • Human Resources: $42.79 million ($43.22 million)
  • Aboriginal Affairs and Intergovernmental Relations: $7.3 million ($7.88 million)
  • Finance: $142.12 million ($128.01 million)
  • Municipal and Community Affairs: $95.53 million ($93.57 million)
  • Public Works and Services: $93.68 million ($93.08 million)
  • Health and Social Service: $349.92 million ($358.79 million)
  • Justice: $113.67 million ($108.465 million)
  • Education, Culture and Employment: $289.1 million ($288.17 million)
  • Transportation: $120.41 million ($111.57 million)
  • Industry, Tourism and Investment: $49.56 million ($53.91 million)
  • Environment and Natural Resources: $65.693 million ($74.5 Million)

Source: Department of Finance

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