Today’s Provincial Budget takes important steps for New Brunswick’s fiscal sustainability, but leaves municipalities waiting on key government commitments and tools to help.
“We agree with Minister Steeves: we all need to work together to help get our province’s finances in order,” said UMNB President Wayne Sturgeon. “We know strong, sustainable municipalities are key to getting there, and we look forward to discussing how we can help the province deliver on its commitments.”
Finance Minister Ernie Steeves presented a balanced 2019-2020 Provincial Budget, which will decrease the province’s net debt for the first time in over a decade.
The 2019-2020 Budget includes $8.25 M in predicted revenues from the cannabis duty, but does not include a share of revenues for municipalities. UMNB has called for 1/3 of total cannabis excise tax revenues to be shared with municipalities, who are tasked with the responsibility and cost of enforcing new rules, and Premier Higgs has committed to revenue sharing.
“This is a missed opportunity to show a new approach, and it leaves municipalities out of pocket for their responsibilities so far,” said Sturgeon. “We appreciated a frank discussion with Premier Higgs, and we look forward to discussing how this promise will be implemented in future.”
The budget also does not change dire numbers from the December Capital Budget, which froze access to infrastructure funding for projects like clean water and climate change readiness, and cut funding for designated highways in municipalities. This limits the ability of some communities to grow their economy and population, and the Auditor General has warned that the price tag for repairs could increase over time, costing municipalities and the province even more in the future.
The budget does include funding to improve access to primary health care in communities, including more Nurse Practitioners. It maintains important direct funding for municipalities and rural communities.It also includes a fund for MLAs to directly support projects in their ridings. “We’ve called for less politics in infrastructure spending, but we appreciate the goal of supporting our communities,” Sturgeon said.
The Union of the Municipalities of New Brunswick is a bilingual association of 60 member municipalities, representing over one third of New Brunswick’s population.
For more information, please contact:
Margot Cragg, UMNB Executive Director, (506) 476-5641, email@example.com