Letnick: 'Huge budget for agriculture'

Newly appointed Agriculture Minister, Norm Letnick says he's pleased the with what the ministry has been able to achieve out of provincial budget.

The budget was tabled in the Legislature Tuesday by Finance Minister, Mike de Jong.

"This is a huge budget for agriculture and I'm very pleased the finance minister has listened to our agriculture community and I've had a small piece in bringing this forward," says Letnick who was handed the agriculture portfolio in September.

Letnick says six items specific to the agriculture industry were added to the budget totalling at least $20.8M.

These include:

  • $1M to include milk in the school food and vegetable program
  • $7M in carbon tax rebates for greenhouse operators
  • $4.4M in carbon tax rebates on purple gas for all farmers
  • $4.4M for yet to be announced initiatives involving meat inspections
  • $4M for initiatives to bolster the work of the Agricultural Land Commission.
  • Elimination of Property Transfer Tax for children if a parent farmer passes away

Overall, Letnick, MLA for Kelowna-Lake Country, says the key message to the average person is a balanced budget.

He says the recession of 2008-2009 hit everyone hard around the world and believes it is nice to get back to a balanced budget situation.

"We're one of just two provinces, us and Saskatchewan, who are balancing their budgets this year which will mean we will continue to get our AAA credit rating which makes our cost of borrowing much less," says Letnick.

"All that money can go to front line services and to keep taxes low in the area where we live and the province as a whole."

In order to achieve a balanced budget the government will reduce spending and increase taxes.

The budget introduced a temporary, two-year, 2.1 per cent income tax increase for people earning more than $150,000 a year.

The general corporate income tax rate will increase by one per cent to 11 per cent April 1 while MSP premiums will be going up again by about 4 per cent in January, 2014.

Letnick says people he has been talking to are telling him they don't mind paying fair taxes for the services they are getting.

"When you look around our area you have $1.5B that has been invested in infrastructure since 2001. That's five times what was invested during the 10 years of the NDP," says Letnick.

"We are the beneficiary of revenues that government has made throughout the province - those are going to serve the needs of our seniors in health care and other services, it's going to serve the needs of our young people in Okanagan College and UBC Okanagan, it's going to serve the need for people in K to 12 in our education system."

Letnick says it's a matter of finding balance which, he says is why a big part of the budget is controlling spending.

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