By BILL TIELEMAN
If British Columbia's Legislature was a small town carnival, today's annual provincial budget would be the cheesy midway, with games where you spend $30 to win a prize worth a buck.
And taxpayers would be the rubes and marks so easily separated from their hard-earned money that they go home thinking they're big winners.
So step right up, ladies and gentlemen, and try your luck!
B.C. Liberal Finance Minister Carole Taylor is the head carny, delivering a budget this afternoon intended to fool you into believing, as one bank's television ads tell us, that: "You're richer than you think."
Well, you're not. You paid through the nose for the B.C. government's surplus of somewhere near $3 billion.
And that extra $885 million the generous Taylor has already said she will spend on your health care? Yep, she picked your pocket without you even noticing!
But what a great smile and, unlike last year, Taylor probably won't wear new $600 Gucci's to distract rubes from the con.
Here's just some of the ways you have already been fleeced before you even get to the carnival.
Medical Services Plan Premiums - These were increased by a whopping 50 per cent in 2002 by the B.C. Liberals and never reduced.
That means each year you give the government an extra $468 million dollars over the $954 million it collected in 2001/02, for a whopping total of $1.42 billion a year. And you still get patients lying in hospital hallways.
Post Secondary Fees - Got a college student in your family? Gee, that's too bad, because tuition is over double what it used to be.
University, college and other post secondary institution fees have jumped dramatically under the B.C. Liberals, from $452 million in 2001/02 to $985 million this year, a big $533 million hike.
Fuel Tax - You are paying a lot more for fuel, thanks in part to an almost forgotten tax grab by the government in 2003. That's when carnival ringmaster Premier Gordon Campbell told us B.C. needed a 3.5-cent-a-litre increase in gas taxes.
It helped fuel tax revenue jump from $659 million in 2001/02 to $945 million this year, a tidy $286-million "gas and dash" at the pumps - at your expense.
Liquor Distribution Branch - Taxes driving you to drink? Pay up again! Booze income has grown by $157 million since 2001/02, a happy hour boost of 25 per cent.
Why? Perhaps because a bottle of Hogue Cellars cabernet/merlot from Washington sells for just $6.99 in their state liquor store and a whopping $13.99 here at home.
So watch out today for the government's hand in your pocket!
Hear Bill Tieleman Mondays at 10 a.m. on CKNW AM 980's Bill Good Show. Website at: http://billtieleman.blogspot.com/