The Province of Saskatchewan tabled its 2023-2024 budget this afternoon which includes a projected $1 billion surplus.
The province is estimating a projected revenue of $19.7 billion, up $2.5 billion or 14.7 per cent, from last year. Expenses are expected to be in the range of $18.7 billion, up $1 billion or 5.9 per cent from last year.
The budget includes no new taxes and no tax increases. Finance Minister Donna Harpauer said there are about $2 billion in initiatives built into the budget each year to keep life affordable for residents in Saskatchewan.
"When you compare Saskatchewan and you factor in housing utilities and taxes, we are the lowest for a family of four. Our personal taxes index is, if not the lowest, the second lowest in the country," Harpauer said.
With the surplus, the province is expected to pay down $1 billion in operating debt, which would reduce the interest costs by $44 million yearly.
"It depends on what the surplus is from. If the surplus is from economic growth and if the economy grows then we can start to look at reductions that are built into the operational (budget). That's why we need to build the economy. If it is one-time revenue and we know it is going to fall at some point then be very careful building it into your operating expenses," Harpauer explained.
The budget includes a record $7.1 billion in health care spending as well as a $6.9 billion budget for the Ministry of Health and $4.4 billion for the Saskatchewan Health Authority.
Included is $55.5 million as part of the overall government-wide spending of $98.8 million for the Healthcare Human Resources Action Plan to recruit, train, incentivize and retain provincial healthcare workers and physicians. The province is committing $22 million in 2023-2024 for 250 new full-time and part-time healthcare positions in rural and remote areas of the province.
The province is increasing its funding by $42.5 million for surgical wait times to allow for 6,000 additional surgeries and reduce the waitlist to pre-pandemic levels by the end of March 2024. That would be one year earlier than the government expected.
The budget will see a $39 million increase to support healthcare for seniors, including $17.6 million for additional long-term beds in Regina and $9.3 million for third-party, long-term care providers.
There will be an increase of $5.5 million to hire 65 continuing care assistants in the final phase of a three-year $18.4 million commitment to hiring 300 additional continuing care assistants.
An increase of $198 million will go towards 64 acute care beds including 36 at Royal University Hospital in Saskatoon and 28 at the Pasqua Hospital in Regina.
Emergency Medical Services will receive $8.8 million to enhance coverage in rural and remote areas with additional funding for contracted EMS operators and EMS system and radio upgrades.
The budget will invest $518 million in mental health and addiction programs and services, taking up 7.5 per cent of the Ministry of Health's budget.
The education budget includes $4 billion in spending, which is up $235.3 million or 6.2 per cent from last year. This includes $3.1 billion to support Pre-K to Grade 12 schools, early learning and childcare and libraries in the province.
Saskatchewan's 27 school divisions will get $2 billion in operating funds, an increase of $49.4 million compared to last year.
About $7 million will be allotted to the school divisions to maintain more than 200 additional full-time teachers as part of the government's commitment since September of 2021.
The new Saskatchewan Distance Learning Corporation virtual school will receive start-up and operation funding of $23 million.
The budget provides $382.4 million for early learning and childcare so that fees for children up to the age of six averages out to $10 per day as of April 1.
Post-secondary schools will receive $764.8 million in funding, an increase of $24.5 million or 3.3 per cent.
This budget is the third year of a four-year funding agreement with post-secondary schools receiving more than $697.4 million in operating and capital grants including $431.8 million for the University of Saskatchewan, University of Regina and affiliated colleges. Saskatchewan Polytechnic, the Saskatchewan Indian Institute of Technologies and the Dumont Institute will receive $171.1 million.
The social services and assistance budget includes a record $1.4 billion for the Ministry of Social Services, an increase of $46.7 million.
This budget includes $968.5 million for the protection of persons and property, an increase of $32.4 million or 3.5 per cent from last year. This includes $1.3 million to reopen Weyburn's Court of King's Bench and the Lloydminster Provincial Court.
Law enforcement initiatives include $7 million to establish the new Saskatchewan Marshals Service. The service is expected to be fully operational by mid-to-late 2026 with about 70 officers. There is also $147,000 allotted to enhance the Internet Child Exploitation unit.
There is $1.4 million in the budget to open a trade office in Germany. This expands from current offices in the United Kingdom, United Arab Emirates, Mexico, Vietnam, Japan, India, Singapore and China.
The Saskatchewan Mineral Exploration Tax Credit will increase from 10 to 30 per cent.
Municipal Revenue Sharing is expected to hit a record high of $297.9 million. This is more than $35 million from last year or 13.4 per cent.
The budget has $227.6 million for healthcare capital and $207.1 million for health infrastructure projects including $38 million for the Weyburn General Hospital replacement.
Over $442 million will be spent on transportation capital in 2023-2024, including improvements on 1,000 km of provincial highways.
About $152.3 million is planned for education capital. This includes $115.7 million to support the ongoing planning and construction of 15 new schools and the renovation of five existing schools. Two ongoing projects include renovations to Kyle Composite School and Ecole St. Margaret in Moose Jaw.
Advanced education will receive $58.9 million for equipment and renovations at Saskatchewan Polytechnic's Saskatoon campus and renovations at the University of Saskatchewan.
Crown corporations will see an investment of $2.1 billion into major capital including $1.2 billion for SaskPower which includes the Great Plains Power Plant in Moose Jaw and the Ermine natural gas-fired electrical plant near Kerrobert.
SaskEnergy will receive $341.2 million in capital spending, while SaskTel will receive $412.7 million.