A plan to exit property tax for education will enter phase one this year, and Steinbach MLA Kelvin Goertzen said it was an important part of the $ 19.4 billion provincial budget presented last Wednesday.
The plan provides a 25 percent discount on property taxes for education this year for residential and farm properties and 10 percent for other types of property. Discounts will return nearly $ 250 million to homeowners.
For Goertzen this was a long time coming. He remembered fighting for it in his first election in 2003.
“It was a relatively new concept back then in Manitoba,” he said.
Goertzen said the average Steinbach homeowner will save about $ 425 this year.
Critics of the change say it’s a tax cut for the rich, but Goertzen said the value of one’s home doesn’t necessarily determine solvency.
“There’s not always a strong correlation between the value of your home and your solvency, and we’re going to see that more dramatically now as house prices rise,” he said.
As an example, he cited a senior citizen who might have bought his house decades ago but lives on a steady income. “Your solvency has not changed at all,” he said. “Only the value of your home has changed.”
Goertzen described the payment of education with property tax as an “unusual way of financing a core service in the government”.
“We don’t tax you to fund health care based on the value of your home, and we don’t tax you if you build highways based on the value of your home,” he said. “It’s an unusual and outdated way of taxing.”
This year’s budget also included an increase in health funding by $ 156 million to $ 6.98 billion. For a total of $ 9.3 million, more than 120 nursing home beds will be added, and Goertzen said it was exciting that this year’s operating budget now includes the Rest Haven expansion, which is currently under construction.
“Seeing the operational funding included is encouraging to many residents who have probably not believed for many years that it will ever come,” he said. “It’s one of those really important projects that will affect generations to come.”
No new information about dialysis in Steinbach was made available, but Goertzen said an announcement from rural health care is expected soon.
“There is no question that Steinbach is now a regional health center and in no way different, and the addition of dialysis and other possible things will only add to its relevance to the region,” he said.
That budget also provides for a deficit of $ 1.597 billion for 2021/22, and Goertzen said that was hard to take.
“I always think we have to strive to balance the budget and we hit a balanced budget a few years ago,” he said. The government has an eight-year plan that is a way back on budget, and Goertzen said people are realizing that COVID affected the planning.
“There is also no doubt that Manitobans, and I think this is reflected nationally in polls I have seen of Canadians in general. They realize that you have to deal with the emergency first,” he said.