Less money for ag as Sask. releases spending estimates

Citing the unprecedented events sparked by the COVID-19 pandemic, the Saskatchewan government released only a partial budget March 18.

Spending estimates totaling $14.15 billion were announced but revenue forecasts won’t come until a later date, said finance minister Donna Harpauer.

The province has access to $1.3 billion in cash if it needs it, she said, adding she isn’t contemplating additional revenue measures right now.

The agricultural portion of the budget is down $22 million or nearly six percent due to decreases in business risk management allocations.

The budget projects a $15.8 million drop in AgriStability spending, based on federal forecasts, and $15.9 million less in crop insurance premiums.

However, it allocates $5 million to identify opportunities for irrigation expansion.

Health spending is increasing by 3.1 percent to $5.77 billion, and the minister said all resources needed to respond to the pandemic will be made available when needed.

The estimates also include a $2.7 billion capital plan that includes funding for new schools, health facilities and highways. The province is planning more than 1,000 kilometres of road improvements and 24 sets of passing lanes.

The opposition NDP said the estimates are already outdated and called for urgent action on COVID-19.

Contact karen.briere@producer.com

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