03/31/2015 12:09 EDT | Updated 05/31/2015 01:12 EDT

New Brunswick forecasts $477M deficit in budget that hikes taxes for rich

FREDERICTON - New Brunswick's Liberal government has introduced an $8.6-billion budget that increases taxes for the wealthy, bumps up the price of fuel, promises to close some courthouses and cut nearly 250 teaching jobs.In his first budget since the Liberals won the election in September, Finance Minister Roger Melanson is forecasting a deficit of $476.8 million for 2015-16, which includes a new, $150 million contingency fund that was announced earlier this week.If the reserve fund is not used this fiscal year, the deficit is projected to drop to $326.8 million, which would still be $71 million higher than the projected deficit for 2014-15.Effective Wednesday, fuel taxes on gasoline will increase by 1.9 cents per litre and the cost of diesel will jump by 2.3 cents per litre.The budget also increases taxes for the richest one per cent of New Brunswickers, creating two new tax brackets.The government also plans to eliminate 249 teaching positions through attrition, close unused courthouses and increase premiums for seniors who use the Medavie Blue Cross prescription drug program.