Finance Minister Jamie Muir introduced the province’s eighth consecutive balanced budget today, May 4th, at Province House, with an estimated surplus of $4 million. The budget includes stimulus measures to help position Nova Scotia’s economy to weather the global recession. “Given the state of the global economy, a balanced budget is a great achievement,” said Mr. Muir. “It was a significant challenge to reach this goal, but we were able to do so while protecting programs and services that are important to Nova Scotians.” Total revenues for 2009–10, including the net income from government business enterprises, are projected to be $8.537 billion, an increase of $71 million over the 2008–09 estimates. Total expenses after consolidation adjustments for fiscal year 2009–10 are budgeted at $8.533 billion, up $256.67 million from 2008–09. Nova Scotia’s economy experienced moderate growth in the past year, and real GDP grew by 1.2 per cent. A 0.2 per cent growth rate is expected in real GDP for 2009-10. Nova Scotia’s budget recognizes that an economic stimulus package is vital to the health of the economy. Under the Building for Growth plan, in partnership with the federal government, the province will invest $1.9 billion in provincially owned infrastructure projects over the next three years. This investment will keep about 20,000 Nova Scotians working, invest $354 million to improve highways and provide $50 million to make schools, hospitals and provincial buildings greener. A new approach to debt reduction is required to help the province get through the worldwide economic downturn. The Debt Management Plan of 2009 will allow certain funds previously earmarked for debt reduction to be used for program spending. Amendments to the Provincial Finance Act have been introduced to enable this change. “Government remains committed to reducing the debt over time,” said Mr. Muir. “We’re keeping our operating costs in line and keeping our debt affordable for the size of the economy.” Relative to tax credit amounts in 2006, Nova Scotians will pay over $50 million less in personal income taxes in 2009–10. The large corporations tax reduction from 0.2 per cent to 0.15 per cent on July 1, 2009, will save large Nova Scotia companies an estimated $9.1 million in taxes in 2009–10. The small business tax rate will be cut in half over three years, starting in 2011. Some previously announced personal tax credits have been temporarily deferred. To ensure safer homes and safer streets in Nova Scotia, government is investing $3.5 million for additional police officers, $6 million over three years to construct and design a new forensic science facility and committing $500,000 for crime prevention in communities around the province. As part of the Poverty Reduction Strategy, $155 million will go towards improving the standard of living for low-income Nova Scotians. The Nova Scotia Child Benefit will expand by $2.5 million, so more families can qualify and take advantage of children’s low-income Pharmacare program. To improve health care wait times, the province will invest $22 million in equipment, and an additional $10 million in emergency repair and renewal. Cost-saving measures in the budget include freezing the wages of deputy ministers and assistant deputy ministers as well as political staff. MLAs will also be asked to agree to a wage freeze. Nova Scotia will avoid public-sector layoffs but the economic climate will be a factor to consider in future wage negotiations and adjustments for non-bargaining unit staff. For further budget information, see the Department of Finance website at www.gov.ns.ca/finance.