Sask. unveils pandemic budget

Saskatchewan introduced what it called its pandemic budget June 15.

The government expects to run a $2.4 billion deficit for 2020-21 due to the COVID-19 virus and its effects on the economy.

The budget forecasts revenues of $13.65 billion, down $1.2 billion from the previous year, and spending of $16.07 billion, up $1.1 billion.

About $1 billion of the spending is allocated to support people and businesses through the pandemic.

In March, just before the virus shut down the legislature and much of the economy, the government announced a spending plan of $14.15 billion, saying it was impossible to project revenues. In mid-April it updated three possible scenarios for how revenues would be affected and the budget is based on the middle of the three, or a revenue hit of about $2.2 billion.

Finance minister Donna Harpauer said the province was on track for a balanced budget this year before COVID-19. She said Saskatchewan has what the world needs as it re-opens.

“Food, fuel and fertilizer is still going to be our staple,” she said. “We benefit so greatly from our

agriculture sector and I see that still being the trend going forward.”

The agriculture ministry budget is $363 million, down slightly from the $369 projected in March and down from $391 million in last year’s budget.

The decrease is due to almost $32 million in lower estimated costs for crop insurance premiums and AgriStability.

Preliminary estimates for last year show that overall agriculture costs, which include spending in other ministries, came in more than $200 million lower than expected mostly due to fewer crop insurance claims.

The government said the 2019 crop came in at 37.4 million tonnes and projects 39.2 million tonnes this year.

Harpauer said $5 million allocated to identify irrigation opportunities is just the beginning.

“We absolutely believe that is something that will be an economic driver,” she said.

There are no new taxes or increases in this budget.

Harpauer said that would be counterintuitive during the pandemic.

“We are not going to touch taxes this fiscal year,” she said.

Contact karen.briere@producer.com

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