The centerpiece of the provincial budget announced Tuesday is a tax cut.
But not any tax cut. This is a cut to Medical Services Plan premiums, slicing them in half for most people next year.
Heading into an election in just a few months, the Liberals obviously want to take credit for slashing the unpopular fee levied to pay for a portion of our province’s health care costs (a $1.9 million informational advertising blitz promoting the budget and MSP changes – not to be confused with campaign advertising – is set to get underway).
There’s just one problem with that – they’re slicing away increases they put into place.
In fact, it was just a year ago that most middle-class folks saw a 14 per cent increase in MSP premiums in the last budget! And there was a four per cent hike in 2015, a four per cent hike in 2013 and a four per cent increase in 2012.
The MSP is one of the most regressive taxes in the province. You begin paying it if you earn more than $24,000 a year, which is barely more than a full-time minimum wage job. Millionaires barely pay more than folks scraping by, and the impact of a four per cent hike on an average worker is obviously much larger.
B.C. Premier Christy Clark has stated government chose to cut the MSP as a way of returning some of the province’s $2 million surplus to the province’s middle class. Unfortunately, the initial cut to won’t occur until Jan. 1, 2018.
Clark and Liberals say they eventually want to eliminate the MSP, and make up for the lost revenue by growing the economy.
Until such time, British Columbians are stuck with this regressive tax.
Of course, if the B.C. government really wanted to help, they’d simply fold MSP into income tax – a more progressive option than a fee on minimum wage workers.
-Black Press/Eagle Valley News