As they prepare to defend their long-standing position as the governing party, the B.C. Liberals tabled a balanced - if unglamorous - budget Tuesday.
"I think it's a really boring budget and I'm glad that it's boring," said Prince George-Mackenzie MLA Pat Bell. "But it's balanced and it's responsible and we aren't layering up costs on future generations of British Columbians."
In the three-year financial plan laid out Tuesday by Finance Minister Mike de Jong in the Legislative Assembly Tuesday, the provincial government projects beating back the $1.2 billion deficit by limiting spending to roughly half of the projected revenues.
"As difficult as it is not to spend all of the modest additional revenues we anticipate receiving, that is the only formula and approach by which a deficit can be eliminated on a sustainable basis," de Jong said.
The province is also relying on tax increases to help generate a surplus. As projected in last year's budget, the general corporate income tax rate will increase by one per cent but a year earlier, as of April 1 of this year.
Personal income tax for those making more than $150,000 will also increase on a two-year temporary basis beginning Jan. 1, 2014, rising 2.1 percentage points to 16.8 per cent.
MSP premiums will also go up at the beginning of 2014 by four per cent to help sustain the health care system, which is being funded with an additional $2.4 billion over the length of the fiscal plan.
"This is not the time for us to be making major spending promises that we can't keep. And I think people today need to stop and recognize we are one of two jurisdictions in Canada [Saskatchewan being the other] that can actually put their budget in a balanced position," said Prince George-Valemount MLA Shirley Bond.
A budget with few photo-op worthy proclamations, the focus was on maintaining core services and commitments.
Bell pointed to the new childhood tax benefit, which will provide up to $660 per year for children under the age of six, as a positive as well as the continued funding for the long-proposed Wood Innovation and Design Centre in Prince George.
"All of us have to live within our means and government shouldn't be any different," said Nechako Lakes MLA John Rustad, who also touted the carbon tax exemptions on coloured fuel used heavily in the agriculture and ranching industries in his ridings.
There is also $100 million earmarked for the Cariboo Connector and $92 million for the road building portion of the Mountain Pine Beetle strategy.
Justice Minister Bond said she was grateful for a nearly 2.5 per cent increase to her ministry's budget, which included $52 million to maintain frontline RCMP services, which facilitate programs such as the gang task forces in Prince George and Kelowna.
But the New Democrats didn't see much to celebrate in the financial plan.
"Today's budget has made it clear that it's time for a change," said NDP finance critic Bruce Ralston.
The NDP candidate for Prince George-Valemount Sherry Ogasawara agreed.
"It's more of the same old, same old," she said, adding that Tuesday's budget announcement demonstrated a "government that's really tired and completely out of ideas."
In addition, some of the ideas put in motion by the budget were spearheaded by the Opposition, Ogasawara charged, citing the taxes for corporations and higher income earners as well as the one-time $1,200 grant towards a child's Registered Education Savings Plan.
"I think overall, the plans and what they put forward lacks credibility," she said, noting the NDP are also wary of the $625 million the Liberals say will be generated by the sale of surplus properties and assets. "It's really speculative," Ogasawara added.
The candidate said her party's plan will come to light once they've had a chance to analyze the financial landscape.
"While some have criticized that we're hiding something or not putting our cards on the table it's really about what was in this budget so we know what the financial picture looks like and then we can take it and cost out a platform," said Ogasawara. "When we go forward into the 2013 election campaign we are going to say exactly what we are going to do, we're going to show how we're going to pay for it and those plans and then we're going to do it."