REGINA -- Saskatchewan residents will have to dig deeper into their pockets for everything from home renovations to alcohol as the government increases the provincial sales tax to help tackle a $1.3-billion deficit.
The budget tabled in the legislature Wednesday raises the PST to six per cent from five and applies the tax to things that were previously exempt, such as children's clothing and restaurant meals.
Public-sector wages are also to be reduced by 3.5 per cent, although Premier Brad Wall has said he won't dictate how that is to be achieved.
"We need the revenue," Saskatchewan Finance Minister Kevin Doherty said of the PST increase.
"All the changes that we're making with respect to the shift from tax on income and productivity to consumption taxes is based on our government's intention to get off such a heavy reliance on resource revenues.
"I acknowledge it will put some pressure on families."
The Saskatchewan government is facing a $1.3-billion deficit in the fiscal year just ending, and hopes to bring it down to $685 million in the year ahead. The plan is to balance the budget in three years.
Doherty said raising the PST was not something the governing Saskatchewan Party campaigned on during the provincial election last year.
But no one expected revenue from natural resources, such as oil and gas, potash and uranium, to fall more than $1 billion and stay that low for three years, he said.
"Why didn't we campaign on that? We simply weren't contemplating any changes to the PST at that time," said Doherty.
"The circumstances have changed ... If you don't have that revenue base available to you, unless you're going to run big deficits for a long period of time, then you have to go at it the spending side."
The Opposition NDP said the budget is an attack on families.
"I think they're going to say, 'Ow.' That's what average families are going to say," said NDP finance Cathy Sproule.
"Even if you want to do renovations to your homes, now that's going to be another five per cent PST because that exemption's gone. Children's clothing ... that's an important reduction or exemption for families.
"There's a number of things in here that are going to hit families really hard."
Tobacco and alcohol taxes are also going up.
The provincially owned bus company will be shut down. The government says it would have cost $85 million to keep the Saskatchewan Transportation Company, known as STC, running for the next five years.
"Everything that they possibly could do to improve their revenue base and to get ridership up just did not work," said Doherty.
Funding is also being cut by five per cent for post-secondary schools to save $30 million.
Libraries in Regina and Saskatoon are losing funding, while the seven regional library systems will see their funding cut by more than half.
Burial and cremation costs will still be covered for low-income people, but those families will have to pay for viewings or services.
Long-term care fees are increasing for about 50 per cent of residents, approximately 8,500 people.
However, personal income and corporate taxes are being cut in what Doherty says is a measure to spur economic growth.
There's a $12-million boost to address emergency department wait times in Regina and Saskatoon, as well as $750,000 to expand the HPV vaccination program to boys.
The government is also putting up $1.4 million and 13 full-time positions to boost oversight of the oil and gas industry.
The province has been exploring tighter regulations since a Husky Energy line spilled 220,000 litres of oil near the North Saskatchewan River last July. In January, a Tundra Energy Marketing Ltd. pipeline leaked 200,000 litres of oil on agricultural land in southeast Saskatchewan.