B.C. deficit forecast tops $3 billion

Falling revenues have pushed B.C.'s deficit forecast above $3 billion, due to

Finance Minister Kevin Falcon

VICTORIA – Expected revenues to the B.C. government fell by $303 million in the second quarter of the fiscal year, due mainly to instability around the world, Finance Minister Kevin Falcon announced Monday.

The drop in revenues will make it more difficult to meet the government’s target of balancing the budget by 2013. Falcon said he will wait until January, when the finance ministry has to finalize its next budget, to see if that target can still be met.

Coupled with a $30 million jump in spending, the latest figures bring the deficit forecast for the year fiscal year ending next March to $3.1 billion.

In a quarterly briefing to reporters, Falcon also confirmed that it will take until the spring of 2012 to reverse the harmonized sales tax.

The largest revenue dip is $146 million less in net income from commercial Crown corporations. The largest factor there was a drop in Insurance Corp. of B.C. revenues, where investment income fell because of instability in the European Union. Falcon said insurance companies around the world have seen investments “hammered” by the the struggles to keep Greece, Italy and other countries from defaulting on debt.

Low prices from a glut of natural gas supplies have reduced B.C. revenues, and the continued slump in U.S. housing has affected forestry revenues.

On the spending side, Falcon said the B.C. government has trimmed operating expenses by $20 million this year. But that was offset by $30 million in costs related to flooding that mainly hit northern B.C. this spring.