EDMONTON — Alberta says depressed oil prices and a shrinking economy pushed its deficit up to $6.4 billion last year — $324 million higher than expected.
Revenues for the fiscal year that ended March 31 were down more than anticipated due, in part, to lower resource revenue and a reduced take in corporate and personal income taxes.
The government says Alberta's economy contracted by 3.7 per cent in 2015.
Spending increased for health care and education — areas the NDP government has pledged to shield from the economic downturn.
Finance Minister Joe Ceci says the government chose to maintain key public services instead of cutting staff and spending during challenging times.
The government plans to wait until its next budget update in August to estimate how the Fort McMurray wildfire will affect its bottom line this year.
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Revenue is pegged at $41.4 billion against $51.1 billion in spending. Projected revenue is down, as benchmark West Texas Intermediate oil is expected to average US$42 a barrel. If oil prices drop to $30 a barrel, the government plans to add a $700-million buffer.
Province is amalgamating 26 agencies, boards and commissions to save $33 million. Salaries and supplies for government will be cut by 2 per cent.
The only new tax is a carbon tax, that will cost households earning more than $100,00 a year about $500 annually. The new tax is part of the province's new climate change plan.
The province has created two new tax credits to encourage investment in small- and medium-sized businesses. Small-business tax will be cut to two per cent.
The government says its spending on employment incentives and capital will create about 100,000 jobs in Alberta over the next three years.