November 26, 2018 / 6:33 PM / in 6 months

UPDATE 1-British Columbia boosts projected 2018-19 budget surplus

(Adds comments from finance minister, details)

By Julie Gordon

VANCOUVER, Nov 26 (Reuters) - The British Columbia government on Monday more than doubled its 2018-19 budget surplus projection on higher income tax revenue, partially offset by lower property transfer tax revenues and a higher loss at the provincial insurer.

British Columbia’s finance minister Carole James also said the Western Canadian province’s operating debt had been eliminated for the first time in 40 years, with the debt-to-GDP ratio at its lowest point since the 2008 financial crisis.

“As a government, we’re working to make life more affordable, to improve services people count on and to build a truly sustainable economic plan for British Columbia,” she told reporters in the provincial capitol. “Today’s results, I’m pleased to say, show that we are on track.”

The 2018-19 surplus outlook rose to C$1.35 billion ($1 billion), compared with C$669 million in the first quarterly update in September and C$219 million projected in February, the government said in a statement.

Revenue is estimated to reach C$57.2 billion in fiscal 2018-19, which is 2.5 percent higher than projected in September.

Much of the revenue gain comes from higher personal and corporate income tax assessments, while funds expected from the property transfer tax declined by another C$150 million.

James noted efforts to rein in British Columbia’s red hot housing markets are working, with sales slowing and prices softening in the high end of the market.

“The second-quarter results show very promising signs of moderation in an out-of-control housing market,” she said, adding: “Relying on a speculative real estate market as an economic plan for British Columbia is risky and unsustainable.”

James also said she is looking at the impact of the federal government’s new plan to allow businesses to write off additional capital investments, and said that trade, including the United States–Mexico–Canada Agreement deal, remains a concern.

“We know there’s still risk on global trade issues, although there is an agreement in place, it’s not in effect yet and we know that that could still cause a risk,” James said.

She noted that natural gas revenue projections were down on pricing, with mining revenue projections up on higher coal prices.

James said the impact of the construction of a C$40 billion liquefied natural gas export terminal in the province’s north, approved by its owners last month, has not yet been factored into projections.

$1 = 1.3238 Canadian dollars Reporting by Julie Gordon in Vancouver Editing by Matthew Lewis and Dan Grebler

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