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Cut budgets instead of hiking taxes: Cummins

Conservative leader not a fan of increasing gas tax

B.C. Conservative Leader John Cummins says the Evergreen SkyTrain line should be funded from spending restraint rather than a tax hike.

A council of Metro Vancouver mayors recently approved a two cent per litre gas tax increase and possibly a $23 property tax hike to help pay for the 11kilometre, $1.4 billion line, which will link Coquitlam with Vancouver via Port Moody and Burnaby, as well as other transit upgrades in the region.

Delta Mayor Lois Jackson voted against it, arguing Delta taxpayers are already being shortchanged by TransLink and won't take kindly to such a property tax increase.

For his part, Cummins, formerly a Tory MP for Delta-Richmond East, says raising taxes "should always be the last resort."

"When my family needs something we can't afford, we find creative solutions, we change our budget, and cut back on less important expenses. Why can't Premier (Christy) Clark stand up for drivers and taxpayers and demand that the mayors do the same?

"Premier Clark has failed taxpayers by not rejecting the Metro mayors' plan for a two-cent-per-litre gas tax.

By finding savings of only one per cent in the municipalities' and TransLink's operating budgets, they can meet their Evergreen Line obligations."

Cummins says the gas tax will generate about $40 million per year to pay for the municipal portion of the Evergreen Line. He notes the Metro Vancouver mayors control operating budgets totaling more than $2.9 billion and TransLink spends another billion.

Finding $40 million through restraint in a budget of nearly $4 billion, Cummins notes, represents savings of only one per cent. Savings of this scale, he adds, have been achieved before. Indeed, TransLink announced finding $33 million in savings in its 2010 budget.

"Politicians should always look for savings before raising taxes," the provincial Conservative leader said, "but the mayors are jacking up gas taxes as a first resort."