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Finance Minister Mike de Jong tables a balanced budget

Finance Minister Mike de Jong tabled a balanced budget today.

His budget projects a surplus of $284 million for 2015-2016, marking the province’s third-consecutive balanced budget.

BC might be the only province to avoid falling to a deficit amid plunging oil prices, but the long-anticipated liquefied natural gas industry has yet to produce one cent.

Last year, the provincial budget was focused on the introduction of income tax and environmental laws for the LNG industry, but so far no project has reached a final investment decision.

There are 18 proponents considering building in BC.

De Jong said BC is not completely immune to the energy revenue reductions that are hurting bottom lines across Canada, but he said the province’s diversified economy buffered it from the worst of the impact.

Still, BC’s natural resource revenues are forecast to drop almost 7% in the next year.

The finance minister announced the elimination of a social services clawback that drew protests at the legislature from single mothers who said the government was taking away their spousal benefits.

He said the change will benefit about 5,400 children and 3,200 families receiving income and disability assistance.

Iglinka Ivanova, an economist with the Centre for Policy Alternatives, said the budget short changes low and middle-income British Columbians.

She said the government should have used more of its surplus money to fund social programs.

Health-care premiums will increase by 4% cent on January 1, 2016.

De Jong said health-care costs continue to rise and the government has increased budget funding by almost $3 billion the next three years.

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