Alberta spent about $1,300 per person above the national average for public services in 2013-14. Changes to government spending outlined in the budget will narrow this over 3 to 4 years while protecting core services and ensuring access for those who need care and for students.
The province's forecasted deficit for this year will be about $5 billion, but the Contingency Account will help transition the province back to balanced budgets.
Under the 5-year Capital Plan, Alberta is investing $29.5 billion over the next 5 years to address the need for roads, schools, hospitals, seniors' facilities and municipal infrastructure across the province.
Consolidated health spending is $18.9 billion in 2015-16.
Budget 2015 reduces health funding by $160 million or 0.8 per cent. Although wages and programs are costing more, savings will be found by cutting excess spending and finding efficiencies.
Albertans will see continued changes toward lower cost drugs and increased efficiencies at Alberta Health Services. This budget maintains government's commitment to protect patient care and be prudent with Albertans' tax dollars.
$35 million in Student Aid will be repurposed, resulting in more funding for grants, more accessible student loans, and new and improved funding options for apprentices.
Alberta continues to provide among the most generous scholarship funding in Canada, with about 47,500 students expected to share in $83 million.
Alberta's publicly funded post-secondary institutions will receive $2 billion in base operating grants this year.
To ensure Alberta's post-secondary education system remains sustainable into the future, the system will be transitioned over the next 5 years into a model that reduces reliance on government funding. As a result, Campus Alberta base grant funding will be reduced by 1.4% in 2015-16 and 2.7% in 2016-17.
To assist with this transition, $50 million in transitional funding will be available this year through Alberta's Access to the Future Fund.
Budget 2015 is maintaining support for child-centred programs. This includes 3 new Parent Link Centres, bringing the total to 53; Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder support networks and Family Support for Children with Disabilities.
The new Alberta Working Family Supplement will provide direct support to lower income working families, in addition to the Alberta Family Employment Tax Credit.
Funding has been maintained in the majority of Human Services programs, including child-care subsidies for low-income families, income support, shelters for youth, women fleeing domestic violence, the homeless, and sexual assault services.
Funding for Legal Aid will increase to $66 million, up $7.2 million from last year. This will help ensure that low-income Albertans, including those who receive Assured Income for the Severely Handicapped (AISH), have access to the service.
In 2015-16, $42 million is going to the First Nations and Metis Relations Division to continue developing economic opportunities and improving socio-economic outcomes for Aboriginal people and communities.
$15.8 million in this year's budget for the Aboriginal Consultation Office will help ensure the timely and efficient review of consultation proposals.
Funding for Alberta Native Friendship Centres remains intact to support social, educational and cultural programs for urban Aboriginal communities.
$74 million will be invested over the next 3 years to improve educational outcomes for First Nations students in partnership with First Nations Chiefs and First Nations education authorities.
Budget 2015 maintains investment in crucial community organizations and programs that help strengthen rural Alberta, including agricultural societies, agricultural service boards and rural utilities.
Alberta continues to invest in strategic programs that focus on the long-term sustainability and competitiveness of our agriculture sector, including market access, research and innovation, environmental stewardship, industry development and food safety.
Investing $97 million in workforce strategies to address the fundamental challenge of people without jobs and jobs without people. This includes a $35 million investment in employment and skills training, including for underrepresented groups.
Budget 2015 is investing $3.6 million in funding for Occupational Health and Safety programs.
Budget 2015 continues strong investment in flood mitigation, wildfire prevention and protection from invasive species such as the mountain pine beetle.
Overall funding for the Alberta Community Resilience Program has been increased and grants for 2015-16 will total $70 million to help protect critical infrastructure from floods and drought.
A total of $78 million is budgeted for the Alberta Environmental Monitoring, Evaluation and Reporting Agency (AEMERA) in 2015-16, ensuring Alberta's actions to protect the environment are informed by the best possible science.
Budget 2015 introduces 2 new tax brackets starting in 2016. Taxable income over $100,000 will be taxed at 11.5% once fully implemented after three years, and taxable income over $250,000 will be taxed at 12% by 2018.
Tax on gas and diesel will be raised by 4cents per litre, to a total of 13 cents per litre.
Tobacco tax is increasing by $5 per carton of 200 cigarettes and the tax on loose tobacco will be raised at parity. These changes align with Alberta's Strategy to Prevent and Reduce Tobacco Use. The last time tobacco tax increased in Alberta was in 2009.
Liquor mark-ups are increasing 22 cents per litre, with the exception of small brewers and cottage wineries selling at farmers' markets. Mid-sized brewers will see an increase of 11 cents per litre. Alberta's liquor mark-up rates remain among the lowest in the country.
A new health levy coming into effect July 1, 2015 is progressive and will better protect lower and middle-income Albertans than the old health-care premiums. Individuals with incomes below $50,000 will not be subject to the levy. For incomes over $50,000, the levy increases incrementally as income rises.
Effective July 1, 2015, Albertans can expect to pay higher fees to registry agents for a variety of services, including getting motor vehicle, land title, mortgage and vital statistics documents.
Traffic fines will increase for Albertans who speed and disobey other traffic laws.