QUEBEC — Finance Minister Eric Girard tabled the Coalition Avenir Quebec government’s first budget on Thursday. Here are some highlights:

— Balanced books for the fifth straight year in Quebec, with a forecast surplus of $2.5 billion on total revenue of $115.6 billion, including $24.9 billion in federal transfers. The surplus will go to a fund aimed at lowering the province’s debt.

— Estimated gross debt of $200.8 billion as of March 31, 2019. That represents 46.1 per cent of gross domestic product, continuing a downward trend from a peak of 54.3 per cent five years ago.

— Expected economic growth of 1.8 per cent in 2019 and 1.5 per cent in 2020, down from 2.3 per cent in 2018.

— Increase in overall spending of 5.0 per cent, with health and social services (5.4 per cent) and education (5.1 per cent) accounting for most of the increase.

— Gradual elimination of daycare surcharge introduced by previous government, affecting 140,000 families this year. It will be eliminated in 2022, saving families a total of $185 million a year.

— Reduction in school taxes over three years with the goal of reaching a single rate across the province, based on the lowest current rate. The cost to the province is set at $200 million in 2019-20.

— Additional funding of $280 million a year as of 2019-20 in home care for seniors.

— A $1-billion spending envelope to support so-called strategic businesses and retain head offices in the province.

— First step toward universal pre-kindergarten for four-year-olds, with 250 classes added as of September 2019 and $1 billion budgeted over five years.

— A plan to add an extra hour to the high school day for sports, arts and homework help, which will begin in 140 schools this year. The program will cost $21 million in 2019-20, rising to $124 million in 2021-22.

The Canadian Press

The Canadian Press