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Starke disappointed with overpass absence in latest budget

Vermilion-Lloydminster MLA Richard Starke is seeing holes in the latest provincial budget.

The budget, tabled on Thursday afternoon, projected Alberta’s debt to grow to $45 billion by the end of the year, with the government continuing to borrow heavily in order to pay for operations and infrastructure.

“Families want our government to keep investing in long-overdue repairs and modernization’s of our schools and hospitals, and they want us to keep improving our roads and highways,” said Finance Minister Joe Ceci.

“They want us to make things more affordable and bring the deficit down, thoughtfully and prudently.”

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The province’s debt is now forecast to hit $71.1 billion by 2019-20. This year’s deficit is pegged at $10.3 billion, which is half a billion less than last year’s. The government has committed to spending $9.2 billion dollars on capital construction, repairs and upgrades this year. Some of those funds will be coming to schools close to the Lloydminster area.

Impact in the local area will see funds headed towards E.H Walter School in Paradise Valley, as well as modernization funds for Two Hills Mennonite School in Two Hills. The Lloydminster Continuing Care Centre will be receiving $3 million dollars under the provinces capital plan. Lakeland College is listed on the unfunded capital project list, with a Trades Building in the works.

Speaking to 106.1 The Goat on Thursday, Starke expressed disappointment with the financial plan, citing a lack of funds made available for the Kitscoty corner overpass project.

“There is a critical need there, and we can only hope that they actually react to it in a positive way at some point,” said Starke.

“Everything else, there is an awful lot of things on that list from all parts of the province. I was looking specifically at transportation for the interchange, there’s nothing there.”

Starke indicated he is planning to ask the government about the project in future. As for the budget as a whole, he was not impressed.

“There’s very, very little attempt made to meaningfully control expenditures,” said Starke.

“Expenditures are up over seven per cent compared to last year’s budget, that’s not expenditure control. That’s not looking after our tax dollars carefully at all.”

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Outside the immediate Border City area, a modernization for École Mallaig Community School in the St.Paul Education Regional Division is listed as unfunded. Portage College in Bonnyville will be receiving around $1.5 million dollars in new funding, with a 2 per cent raise to it’s base operating grant as well as another million for an infrastructure assessment.

As for the official opposition, the Alberta Wildrose Party has called the budget a “debt-fueled disaster”. Wildrose leader Brian Jean argues the interest payments on the province’s debt is money being taken away from hospitals and schools and their employees.

“The NDP remain completely out-of-touch with life for real Albertans who are suffering today,” said Jean.

“81,000 full-time jobs have vanished since the NDP took power, but they’re doubling down on a high tax, high-debt agenda that will cost families thousands of dollars every year and suffocate our economy’s ability to create the jobs it’s capable of.”

The federal budget is expected to be released towards the end of March.

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