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Premier Campbell uses TV appearance to promise income tax cut

British Columbia Premier Gordon Campbell appeared in a pre-recorded televised speech this evening to promise an income tax cut and a greater emphasis on education. He also continued to defend the harmonized sales tax.

“Our government has always felt that the best thing we could do is leave more money in your pocket so you can make your own decision about what's best for you and your family,” Campbell said, adding that he understands many B.C. families are struggling from paycheque to paycheque trying to keep up with the rising cost of living.

He announced a 15 percent tax cut on income under $72,000, saying it was the second largest such cut in B.C. history, after a 25 percent cut his government made in 2001 immediately after taking office.

The tax cut, which will begin January 1, 2011, will take $568 million out of B.C.'s budget, which is already in deficit. That amount will rise to $638 million by 2013-14. A backgrounder provided to reporters said the government remains on track to balance the budget by 2013-14.

In his last quarterly report, released in September, Finance Minister Colin Hansen identified $2.1 billion that's available over the next three years thanks to higher than expected revenue from corporate taxes.

For someone earning $50,000, the cut Campbell announced today will reduce income taxes by $354. For someone earning roughly $72,000 or above, the difference will be $616. A person earning $20,000 will keep an extra $68 a year.

The cut will affect 1.9 million taxpayers in B.C., he said.

Campbell also promised to build 100 more StrongStart B.C. centres to provide free early learning services for adults and their children who are under five years old and to introduce testing of five-year-old children entering school “to tailor educational programs to meet their learning needs.” There are already some 300 such centres in the province.

“We commit to every parent in the province that within the next five years, every child that leaves grade four will be reading at grade four level, will be writing at grade four level and will be doing math at grade four level,” Campbell promised.

“That will take millions of dollars of investment, but it's something that's worth doing because it opens up all kinds of opportunities for our young people in the province of British Columbia.”

Campbell also continued to defend the HST, saying the cost of 80 percent of goods and services were unchanged by the move that combined the seven percent provincial sales tax with the five percent federal GST.

“So should we have consulted you more?” he asked. “I sure would have liked to.” He repeated his promise to respect the results of the referendum on the HST set for Sept. 24, 2011.

A government official declined to say how much taxpayers paid for Campbell's 23-minute address--filmed in the Vancouver cabinet offices--and the television time, saying the premier will provide those details tomorrow.

A recent Angus Reid poll put Campbell's personal approval rating at nine percent.

Andrew MacLeod is The Tyee’s Legislative Bureau Chief in Victoria. Reach him here.

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