NEWS

Alberta finishes fiscal year with soaring bottom line

06/28/2012 05:28 EDT | Updated 08/28/2012 05:12 EDT
The Alberta government has come within a hair of balancing its books after predicting a $3.4 billion dollar deficit for the 2011-2012 budget year.

The deficit ended up at $23 million.

"I'm very, very pleased to be here to share some positive news," beamed Finance Minister Doug Horner at a news conference.

He attributed the turn around to higher than expected land sales, investment income and oil prices.

But Horner warned the recent slide in oil prices could force the province to rein in spending this year.

"We have direct control over what we spend . We don't have direct control over oil prices or the royalty revenues that we're going to be bringing in," he said.

The opposition Wildrose believes Alberta could be headed to another multi-billion dollar deficit unless energy prices rebound.

Finance critic Rob Anderson believes the province should rein in its spending.

"It's clear today that you can win the lottery and still not balance your budget," he said.

"They're still running a three billion dollar cash shortfall, our sustainability fund has fallen from roughly twelve billion to nine billion dollars, and this, with oil at almost 100 dollars a barrel, which is what it came in at last year."

But Horner said it's too early to be making predictions.

"If you're going to project the next deficit or surplus based on today's oil price — frankly it's a little irresponsible," he said.

2011-12 Annual Report Highlights:

- Revenue was $39.2 billion, $3.6 billion higher than budget mostly due to higher land lease sales, resource revenue and investment income.

- Expense was $39.3 billion, nearly $300 million higher than budget due to disaster assistance.

- The Sustainability Fund stood at $7.5 billion at March 31, 2012, $2.2 billion higher than the budget estimate.

- The Heritage Savings Trust Fund’s fair value stood at $16.1 billion at March 31, 2012; the fund generated almost $800 million in investment income during the fiscal year.

- Alberta brought the bottom line close to balanced with a $23 million deficit, $3.4 billion lower than estimated at budget.

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