When it came time to deal with a Saskatchewan deficit after their 2016 went off the rails completely, the Saskatchewan Party simply off loaded the hurt to just about everyone this time aound, including the agriculture sector.
The hurt for farmers will come in both direct hits to their bottom line, and a further abandonment of rural Saskatchewan in general.
Hitting the pocketbook, farm bulk purchases of gasoline are no longer exempt from the 15-cent-per-litre fuel tax, and the exemption for diesel is reduced to 80 per cent.
The government has stated the changes it did make will increase its fuel tax revenue by $40.2 million.
Farmers will also be affected by changes to education property tax to bring the system back to a 60-per cent government, 40-per cent property tax split. Property tax has been paying about 35 per cent of the education bill the last few years.
The provincial mill rates were adjusted downward for all property classes but that is not going to mean lower taxes as other elements come into play. Reassessment and increased property values means the government will actually take in more money.
The agricultural mill rate is dropping from 2.67 last year to 1.43, but payments will rise from $39 million to $46.1 million.
The agriculture sector has been a bright spot of late in Saskatchewan as oil, gas and mineral revenues have seen government revenues from those sectors in decline, but if you are keeping score that is more than $86 million out of farm revenues.
And then there are a myriad of in-direct impacts hitting the farm sector.
Gone with this budget is the Saskatchewan Transportation Company.
The move will save the province only $17 million a year against its $1.3 billion deficit from last year, and in the process about 224 STC staff are losing jobs.
And farmers needing parts in rural Saskatchewan will now have to find alternate freight transportation options for needed parts in peak work seasons, or climb off the combine and make trips to get what is required.
Of course they may have to face the choice between harvesting their canola, or taking an aging family member to doctor appointments or cancer treatments in Regina or Saskatoon.
In a province of only 1.1 million people spread over such a massive area, the lack of connectivity STC provided seems simply put to be folly given the limited saving against such massive red ink from the last budget.
Rural municipalities will get less from the government this year as the budget cut the Municipal Roads for the Economy program from $16 million to $14 million and overall revenue sharing is down because it is based on PST revenues from two years ago.
That means increased municipal taxes or less service, since municipalities by legislation cannot run a deficit.
Small towns also get a chop with the suspension of the Community Rink Affordability Grant will let the government hold onto an annual $1.7 million.
That impacts the maintenance of rinks which are often the heart of rural communities.
Much as are libraries as a gathering places for learning, but again the regional library system may be forced into closures and reduced service.
Only $3.5 million in funding remains for the province’s libraries. Regional libraries funding has been chopped by $3.5 million; funding for the province’s seven library systems down to $2.5 million from last year’s $6 million.
And don’t expect rural highways to get much attention either.
The Transportation Infrastructure budget is $860.8 million (down from $875 million in 2016-17).
But hold on, out of the 2017-18 total the lion’s share $500 million (58 per cent) has been set aside to continue the Regina bypass build, leaving $295.4 million for highway upgrades and repaving province-wide.
Surface preservation investment this year is declining to $110 million from $138 million.
The impact on rural Saskatchewan will be significant with many of the hurts everlasting, since cuts such as STC, a closed small town library, or abandoned regional park will never be regained, even if the government does manage to get budgets back on track without simply offloading to everyone.
Calvin Daniels is Editor with Yorkton This Week.