TORONTO – Ontario Finance Minister Charles Sousa has unveiled the 2013-2014 budget.
Here are some of the highlights:
— $35 billion over three years for infrastructure spending, including a new $100 million fund for small and rural municipalities to repair roads and bridges.
— the government will legislate an average 15 per cent cut in auto insurance premiums, but won’t say over what period of time.
— the threshold for paying the 1.95 per cent employer health tax will be raised, which the budget says will mean 60,000 businesses will pay less, while the exemption would be eliminated for companies with a payroll over $5 million.
— new high-occupancy toll (HOT) lanes on sections of some 400 series highways in the Toronto area (401, 404, 410 and 427)
— widening key sections of Highway 401 in the Greater Toronto and Hamilton area, Highway 417 in Ottawa, and Highway 11/17 between Thunder Bay and Nipigon.
— income testing will start in August 2014 to force higher income seniors to pay a larger share of their prescription drug costs.
— there is a one per cent increase for people on welfare and disability support, who will also be allowed to keep the first $200 of earnings each month before their benefits are reduced.
— a one per cent annual increase in spending on home and community care on top of the four per cent increase announced in last year’s budget.
— there is $195 million over two years to help create 25,000 job opportunities for youth; $45 million over two years for a youth entrepreneurship fund;
— $42 million a year to help adults with development disabilities and their families.
_ the deficit for 2013-14 is projected to be $11.7 billion, up from the $9.8 billion estimate for last year.
— total spending will be $127.6 billion this year, and is projected to grow by 1.8 per cent a year over the next three years.
— economic growth is projected at 1.5 per cent this year, 2.3 per cent in 2014 and 2.4 per cent in both 2015 and 2016.
— Ontario’s net debt was projected to be $252.8 billion as of March 31, 2013.
Note to readers: This is a corrected story. A earlier version incorrectly said new high-occupancy toll lanes would be installed on Highway 417 in Ottawa.