Municipal taxpayers hit hard by budget; solutions not considered

NDP Municipal Affairs Critic George Murphy

NDP Municipal Affairs Critic George Murphy (MHA, St. John’s East) says the taxpayers in the province’s seven largest municipalities have extra reason to be appalled by this week’s provincial budget. Not only has government abruptly changed its method of funding without consulting municipalities, but it has refused to consider innovative alternatives.

“The City of St. John’s is left with a $3.4 million shortfall, and Corner Brook a $700,000 one,” said Murphy. “That’s not fair to taxpayers in these larger centers.” By Murphy’s estimate, St. John’s could be forced to raise taxes by as much as $100 per household.

“If government had bothered to consult, they might have taken less harmful steps,” said Murphy. “Municipalities Newfoundland and Labrador has been requesting a rebate on the provincial portion of the HST they pay. This could give St. John’s, for example, as much as $10 million to help with the costs of running the province’s capital city without further burdening taxpayers, and would certainly be of benefit to every municipality in the province.”

Another idea which would help all municipalities is that of topping up municipal operating grants with a portion of the provincial gasoline tax. The total amount of gasoline tax collected grows at about the rate of inflation, says Murphy, and sharing it with municipalities would be a transparent use of taxes collected from consumers.

“This budget was devastating for rural Newfoundland and Labrador, and it is no better for the larger centres,” Murphy said. “Government has squandered the largest revenues we have ever seen and is forcing the taxpayers of this province to pay for its errors.”

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