Nova Scotians can look forward to more ice time with upgrades to arenas in the province but they may have a tough time getting to facilities with fuel taxes set to remain the third highest in the country.

Opposition leaders were close to being evenly split on support for and disappointment in the details of the 2008-09 budget tabled yesterday at Province House.

The province’s seventh consecutive balanced budget provides for a public transit tax credit that will pay for about $5.25 of a monthly pass but power bills will increase by about eight per cent as the government does away with its HST rebate program.


New Democrat Leader Darrell Dexter said he was disappointed about the increase in power costs, but he approved of a student rebate program, making loans forgivable upfront.

Liberal Leader Stephen McNeil said he’s happy to see the Tories helping seniors with a healthy living tax credit but he had hoped to see some movement on the gas tax issue.

“I’m disappointed, quite frankly,” he said.

After Finance Minister Michael Baker gave the budget address to the legislature, Premier Rodney MacDonald said the government had some difficult choices to make while preparing this year’s document.

“We needed to get more dollars into the hands of low-income Nova Scotians,” he said.

And Baker explained to media the province had a choice between cutting gas tax by four cents a litre, or a heating assistance program for low-income households.

“You cannot have both; we chose the home-heating program,” Baker said.

Baker said Nova Scotia is protecting and enhancing programs and services, reducing the debt and holding the line on taxes.

The government also chose to put the $18 million it will save from cutting the HST rebate program for power toward the pharmacare program, assisting those without drug coverage.

Members of the legislature will have the chance to vote on the budget May 14. Both opposition leaders said they will review the details before commenting on which way they might vote.

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