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REGINA: The Saskatchewan division of the Canadian Union of Public Employees says the provincial budget unveiled today shows that working people are now paying the price for years of reckless tax cuts.

In the early 1990s, the burden of deficit reduction fell on working people through cuts to social programs, public sector layoffs and wage restraint. Now, working people will once again have to pay for years of irresponsible tax cuts with the elimination of 400 good-paying public service jobs and the imposition of a provincial wage mandate of 0-1-1 percent increases over the next three years, said Tom Graham, president of CUPE Saskatchewan.

Graham noted that last years inflation rate was 2.4 percent. So essentially we are looking at a rollback in real wages, he said.

In effect, the government is redistributing income from working people through wage controls to the wealthy and big oil companies in the form of tax cuts and resource royalty reductions, said Graham. Its a perverse form of income redistribution.

Graham noted that the government finally recognized it has a revenue problem, referring to the one percent increase in the provincial sales tax. Unfortunately, the sales tax falls hardest on those who can least afford it working people and the poor.

Instead of relying on the regressive sales tax and increases in user fees, Graham said the government could have raised hundreds of millions of dollars by increasing resource royalties, eliminating corporate tax breaks, and making the personal income tax system more progressive, as advocated by the Saskatchewan Alternative Budget of Choice (ABC).

We are losing $640 million annually as a result of royalty and tax reductions in the resource sector - potash, forestry, oil and uranium, said Graham. We cant afford to sell off our non-renewable resources at fire sale prices.

We should be using our tax dollars to support schools, community-based organizations and cash-strapped agencies like the human rights commission and legal aid, not multinational corporations, he said.

Graham expressed concern with the health budgets long-term care proposals, which promise bed closures, conversions and layoffs, but no corresponding increase in funding for home care.

What are the plans for long-term care? Whos going to take care of Saskatchewans seniors? We are very concerned that the provincial government may be setting the stage for the privatization of long-term care in this province. This would seem to fly in the face of their recent election commitment to oppose health care privatization.

CUPE represents over 24,000 public sector workers in Saskatchewan who work at health care facilities, municipalities, school boards, universities, libraries and community-based organizations.

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For more information, contact:
Tom Graham 229-8171