POLITICS

Wall suggests higher education taxes possible to cover infrastructure needs

02/03/2014 02:54 EST | Updated 04/05/2014 05:59 EDT
REGINA - Saskatchewan Premier Brad Wall is musing that money for infrastructure projects could come from higher school taxes.

Wall says there are big infrastructure needs in the cities — for example, a highway bypass in Regina — and one out of three towns has water or sewer issues.

The premier told reporters after speaking to the Saskatchewan Urban Municipalities Association (SUMA) convention that the budget is being finalized for March and must be balanced.

"The last resort is, do we have to look at some sort of revenue that we would dedicate to infrastructure, because that's the challenge here, and that's what we're hearing from SUMA. Not just SUMA, but SARM (Saskatchewan Association of Rural Municipalities) and other partners across the province," Wall said Monday.

He added it's possible the education property tax could be the source.

"You know, that would be an option, but again no decisions have been taken."

The premier says the education portion of property taxes went up almost every year when school boards had control over the rate. The province has reduced the reliance on property taxes for education since the government changed the funding formula," he said.

"Do we assume that there will never, ever be an increase to education property tax, now that the government's basically taken that part over? I don't know if that's reasonable," said Wall.

"If we weren't growing like we are growing currently, if we didn't have the very significant infrastructure demands, perhaps you could come to that conclusion."

Wall also said the province will hold the line on business taxes, but that means a promise to lower the corporate income tax rate is not likely to come in the budget either.

The Saskatchewan Party government said in its growth plan unveiled in October 2012 that it planned to cut the corporate income tax rate to 10 per cent from 12 per cent by 2015. The business tax cut was intended to bring Saskatchewan's rate in line with rates in Alberta.

But the province postponed that move in the March 2013, saying it couldn't afford to give up the $175 million the tax generates.