VICTORIA – The NDP Government’s first B.C. Budget in 17 years is balanced, but it’s clear far more attention was given to spending taxpayer dollars than to growing the economy, says the Independent Contractors and Businesses Association (ICBA).

“This budget puts the economy on autopilot – it offers nothing for how to grow prosperity, how to get to yes on major projects, or how to attract investment to B.C. In fact, its tax hikes hinder that effort,” said Jordan Bateman, ICBA Communications Director. “With a razor-thin surplus dependent on a lot of things going right, B.C. taxpayers should be alarmed that the NDP Government has stopped paying attention to growing the economy.”

The Massey Tunnel replacement project has been completely deleted from the Budget, and while the new Pattullo Bridge is funded, there are no line items for Surrey light rail or the Broadway subway.

“The only workforce and industry support mentioned by the Finance Minister were $18 million for arts grants and $29 million for agriculture. There’s another $144 million from the federal government for employment programs, but you can’t help but think Ottawa might be hesitant to cut that cheque right now,” said Bateman. “This won’t do much to grow the economy.”

While there is much to like in the government’s 30-point housing plan – including cracking down on tax cheats – there are some notable omissions. No mention is made of pushing cities to cut red tape on new housing, which is a significant hindrance to supply.

ICBA members should also brace themselves for a new employer health care payroll tax, to replace the Medical Services Premium. Businesses with payrolls over $500,000 will have to pay a new health tax for their employees. The tax’s initial rate is set at 1.95 per cent of payroll.

“The NDP are balancing this budget by hiking taxes on B.C.’s job creators,” said Bateman. “Lost MSP revenue will be $1.74 billion over three years, but the new payroll tax will bring in $3.2 billion during that time. That kind of double dipping is troubling and disingenuous – collecting both the old and new tax at once.”

With last year’s personal income tax hike, the carbon tax increasing by $5 a ton every year, the minimum wage hike, more regulation, a new 2 cent per litre Capital Region gas tax, and the MSP-Employer Health Tax double dip, small businesses – as 90 per cent of ICBA members are – will be stretched thin. In total, the NDP Government is raising taxes by more than $5.5 billion over three years.

The provincial debt will grow by a billion dollars each quarter over the next two years, to $77 billion.