Update Positive But Still Work to be Done Oped

first_imgOn Dec. 22, the province released an update to this year’s budget. At this time, we are forecasting the province will have a surplus of $97 million at year end. While this is positive, it does not change the fact that Nova Scotia still expects to have a significant deficit next year. In fact, Nova Scotia still has an overall debt of over $13 billion. The bottom line is that while we are making progress, Nova Scotia has not yet turned the corner when it comes to getting rid of our long-term financial challenge. The financial challenge facing this province still exists today, just as it existed yesterday, and just as it will exist when a new budget is brought forward in the spring of 2011. Let me explain why this year’s surplus isn’t quite what it seems.This year’s budget doesn’t include typical annual expenses such as funding for universities or funding for the student bursary trust. Last year, funding for universities was about $360 million. While no decision has been made on the amount for next year, the fact is that these costs will recur next year and every year. The surplus was also a result of saving money and receiving more revenue than expected from some areas. But in each case, these circumstances are not likely to be repeated and therefore can’t be depended upon in future years. We are now in the first year of the four-year plan we released with the spring budget. As the four-year plan outlined, we still expect a significant deficit next year in the range of $370 million. It will take discipline to make sure next year’s deficit doesn’t go beyond that point. So, today we have an accounting surplus, but realistically, it’s still a deficit. That means it is more important than ever to control spending. We have to continue to restrain wage increases in the public sector. We have to continue to eliminate government year-end spending, sometimes referred to as March madness. And we have to work with departments, agencies, boards and commissions to set budgets for next year that help government live within its means. Some critics may argue that we should ease off now. But that’s exactly the kind of short-sighted thinking that got Nova Scotia into this mess. Today, I am happy to see positive results, and give credit to the individuals and organizations that are helping us live within our means. The surplus is a nice short-term surprise, but it cannot become a distraction. The province will continue to take on the hard work to get back to balance and live within our means. -30-last_img read more