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BC: BCTF's Year 2000 Plan Would Cost Taxpayers Dearly

June 09, 2014
BC: BCTF's Year 2000 Plan Would Cost Taxpayers Dearly

“In the year 2000…” may have been a classic Conan O’Brien Late Night sketch, but taxpayers should be fervently hoping we never go back to that expensive point in time.

It rolls off B.C. Teachers Federation (BCTF) president Jim Iker’s tongue as the simple solution to decades of labour strife: simply raise provincial income taxes to year 2000, pre-BC Liberal levels, and government will have more than enough money to give the teacher’s union everything they want.

You’re forgiven if you can’t remember your provincial income tax burden way back in 2000. It was a long time ago: Bill Clinton was still in the White House, Felix Potvin and Garth Snow were the Canucks’ goaltending controversy du jour, Britney Spears topped the charts with Oops… I Did It Again, and we had all “barely” survived the Y2K computer meltdown. It was a crazy time.

Fortunately, the B.C. government tracks provincial tax burdens in every budget document. And moving back to year 2000 tax levels would be an expensive proposition for everyone, especially the poor.

In 2014, a two-income family of four earning $90,000 per year paid $3,199 in provincial income tax. In 2000, that identical family paid $6,234, nearly double. That’s an extra $250 taken in income tax every month.

Even factoring in the BC Liberals’ huge increases in Medical Services Premium taxes, the 2000 family paid $2,200 more than the 2014 family – still $185 more per month.

The numbers aren’t good for the working poor, either. An individual making $25,000 per year pays $385 in provincial income tax today, down from $1,235 in 2000.

Every category would take a hit: seniors earning $30,000 in pension would pay $495 more per year. Individuals making $80,000 a year would pay nearly $4,000 more annually.

Yet the BCTF loves the year 2000. Their leadership continually points to pre-BC Liberal income tax levels as the best way to put more money in their members’ pockets, hire more teachers, and save the world from a zombie apocalypse.

Former BCTF president Susan Lambert railed against the BC Liberals’ tax cuts in a 2011 submission to the government’s finance committee. “Government revenue must be increased,” she concluded, advocating for massive, across-the-board tax hikes. That prompted columnist Les Leyne to opine, “All the government has to do to keep teachers happy is raise taxes.”

Lambert repeated the point on Voice of B.C.: “This government reduced its own revenues by 25 per cent… public education being on the raw end of that deal.”

New BCTF president Iker has picked up the same messaging. “The funding problems in education began, for the most part, 12 years ago when the Liberal government was elected and the first thing they did was give a 25 per cent tax cut across the board,” he told Voice of B.C. in response to a Canadian Taxpayers Federation question on whether he supported tax increases to pay for a settlement.

Instead of dinging the taxpayer for more money, the BCTF should look at what other government unions have recently settled for: future economic growth. As B.C.’s economy grows, government employees get a slice of that new revenue. It’s fair, it’s manageable, and it’s proven to be a successful formula in settling contracts for 40 per cent of the provincial workforce. 

Wherever you stand on the BCTF’s demands, be aware: it will cost you. And if the union gets their way, it’ll cost you a lot.

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