Every provincial budget is something of a balancing act, trying to meet the demands of today while keeping an eye firmly fixed on the future. The Manitoba provincial budget released on Tuesday, is an example of dealing with unprecedented times while ensuring future needs are met as well.
Over the past year, inflation and higher interest rates have squeezed the pocketbooks of Manitobans. While the Manitoba government has done a number of things to help relieve this financial pressure, more was announced in Tuesday’s budget. In a historic move, the budget outlined an increase of the basic personal tax exemption amount from $11,000 annually to $15,000. This means Manitobans can earn an additional $4,000 before beginning to pay income taxes, an annual savings of about $524 per person. In addition, the education property tax rebate is being increased to 50% this year. For the average homeowner in Manitoba, this will result in a savings of $774. Combined with a readjustment upward of income tax brackets, the budget provides record financial relief to Manitobans.
While this financial relief is critical in these times of financial pressure, investing in important services is also a priority. The budget for the Department of Health is increasing by almost 9% over last year as tens of millions of additional dollars are set aside to help reduce wait times. Notably, the provincial program which covers the cost of insulin pumps for those who have Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes is being expanded to cover all eligible adults. This is something local advocates have been working towards for many years.
We also heard from many in the disability community that disability support workers need a significant increase in their current pay to ensure that staff can be found for this critical service. The new budget delivers $81 million of support for this sector which will increase the average wage of disability service workers to $19 per hour.
As Minister of Justice, I was pleased to see more than $50 million earmarked for the provincial violent crime strategy. This will support efforts to help ensure that law enforcement agencies have the tools they need to make our communities safer. We also know that the root causes of crime are related to addiction and homelessness. The budget also dedicated $9 million for 1,000 new substance use and addictions treatment spaces along with $51 million for shelters and transitional housing as part of a homelessness strategy.
Keeping an eye to the future, it is also important to ensure that these measures are affordable for taxpayers. Increased revenues have allowed these new initiatives to be brought forward while at the same time reducing the provincial deficit to $363 million, a reduction from previous forecasts.
This budget was the result of listening to Manitobans, responding the current economic realities, while looking to future success. In the weeks ahead more details on how Budget 2023-2024 will impact you and your family will be shared.