Surrey business group reacts to budget

Surrey Board of Trade says the 2012 budget is responsible, but cut to education is "not acceptable."

The Surrey Board of Trade reacted to Tuesday's budget.

A Surrey business group approves of the fiscal direction of the provincial budget unveiled Tuesday, but the Surrey Board of Trade says the government is irresponsible to take away $70 million away from advanced education.

Dubbed by pundits as a “cupboard-is-empty” budget, Minister of Finance Kevin Falcon read the details of the budget to the legislature Tuesday afternoon.

It was the first budget given by Falcon, also the MLA for Surrey-Cloverdale, and included restricted spending, selling surplus lands, as well as increasing MSP premiums, among other measures to balance the budget before the 2013 election.

Spending growth will be held to two per cent annually over three years, with the bulk of it going to education and health.

It leaves other ministries with virtually no increases, not even for inflation, which is expected to result in about 2,000 layoffs by 2015.

Anita Huberman, CEO of the Surrey Board of Trade told The Leader Tuesday the fiscally conservative direction is responsible, but some of the details are troubling.

“The board of trade believes that to have a sustainable economy, you need to invest in education and you need to invest in transportation,” Huberman said. “And the $70-million spending cut to advanced ed is not acceptable. So we are not happy with that at all.”

The budget allows for a grant of up to $10,000 for first time home buyers and benefits for seniors could be beneficial Huberman said. She also noted some potential could be made of the sale of several provincial holdings, including a six hectare parcel of land at Highway 10 and 152 Street in Surrey, as well as about 100 other plots of land expected to raise $700 million.

All that said, she believes it’s irresponsible not to invest more in education.

Victoria is also holding the small business income tax to 2.5 per cent, which it had promised to eliminate, but now will wait until the economy improves.

Corporate tax may increase by one per cent, but not until next year and depending how the economy is doing.

Liquor distribution centres will also be sold, however, liquor stores will not.

The Surrey Board of Trade is still combing over the budget and will be sending out a formal release on Wednesday.