The Manitoba government is amending proposed legislation that would enhance accountability and protections for taxpayers, Finance Minister Cameron Friesen said today, adding the amendments would strengthen provisions for deficit reduction by challenging cabinet ministers to exceed their reduction targets by more than $100 million each fiscal year.
“Our government has listened carefully to Manitobans,” said Friesen. “The amendments brought at committee reinforce this government’s commitment to leading by example and making the necessary progress on deficit elimination. These amendments would ensure sufficient penalties if this government, or any future government, fails to meet targets for deficit reduction or maintaining balance. Our cabinet ministers will lead by example and do their part to manage government budgets, ensuring the long-term sustainability of our province’s finances.”
The proposed legislation would require 20 per cent of all ministerial salaries to be withheld each year until improvement is shown. The amount withheld would increase to 40 per cent if two consecutive years of legislation-contravening deficits were experienced. This amount would be paid to ministers only if the government demonstrates progress from the baseline deficit by $100 million or more in the audited public accounts for that fiscal year. If there is no improvement, then all of the withheld salary would be forfeited. If there is improvement below $100 million, a pro-rated amount would be reimbursed.
The proposed legislation would also require a non-binding referendum before the government introduces any bill to increase tax rates under The Health and Post Secondary Education Tax Levy Act, The Income Tax Act or The Retail Sales Tax Act.
The proposed legislation, known as the fiscal responsibility and taxpayer protection act, would also require government to:
• table a budget before April 30 every year with a fiscal responsibility strategy outlining the government’s current and future financial objectives;
• refrain from incurring a deficit of more than a baseline amount – this would be the lesser of either the annual deficit amount projected for the 2017-18 budget or the lowest actual annual deficit amount for any fiscal year beginning with 2017;
• calculate deficit or surplus amounts on a summary basis;
• maintain a balance or surplus position once a deficit has been eliminated; and
• address debt reduction once a budget is balanced.