Sep 13, 2014

If the political will is there, the money is too to settle teachers’ dispute


I’ve submitted the following Letter to the Editor to the Vancouver Sun. Hoping they publish it in the next couple days:

Enough with the pleas of a bare cupboard from the Premier, Finance Minister and Education Minister. If the political will is there, there is plenty of money to settle the teachers’ dispute, hire more teachers, and implement significant improvements to class size and composition.

In the 2013 Provincial Budget, the BC government introduced a temporary 2-year upper-income tax bracket (a 16.8% tax on incomes over $150,000). I don’t recall any significant objections at that time. When it was introduced, the government estimated it would raise $205 million per year, although Statistics Canada’s SPSD/M model suggests it is now raising closer to $225 million. Moreover, its revenue-generating capacity was undercut by its temporary nature; in establishing a two year end-point, upper income people were encouraged to defer income until after the tax.

If the tax were made permanent, it would raise over $225 million a year starting next fiscal year. Only the wealthiest 2% of taxpayers would be affected. It’s a modest tax that would help reduce inequality. And using it to fund improved class size and composition for special needs children would further address inequality, by enhancing opportunities for children whose parents can’t afford to pay for the needed supports privately.

[For more tax options to solve the dispute, see Iglika’s excellent post here.]

The government has also just announced that its surplus for the current fiscal year will be $82 million higher than expected, jumping from an estimated $184 million to $266 million. To that you can add another $300 million in a contingency fund. Larger surpluses are projected for 2015 and 2016. [For more on this point, see Marc’s post here.]

The money is there to fund an arbitrated or negotiated settlement.

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