Kindersley MLA Ken Francis is coming off a busy week. Last Wednesday was the final provincial budget release for Francis, who is not seeking re-election beyond 2024. Francis then traveled back home for the Kindersley Constituency Premier's Dinner on Thursday night, before returning to the office on Friday, and sitting down with WestCentralOnline to discuss the 2024 provincial budget.

The budget was a main topic of discussion at Thursday's dinner. With a tagline of "Classrooms, Care and Communities", the local member feels that the 2024 budget has a little bit of something for everyone in the province as they embark on the next fiscal year.

"I think this budget is far-more general, maybe, than specific investment in specific areas. There is some of that." said Francis, echoing the budget's focused statement. "That really encompasses the whole province. There is something for every community in this budget."

Education has been a hot-topic in the province. Francis delved into things, as the budget this year shows the largest-ever increase in school operating funding.

"A big focus on education, with classroom investments up significantly. A 9 per cent lift over the whole education system is very significant, it's the largest increase in the history of the province. And there is a need. We knew there was a need for more investments into classrooms, so it was good to see that in this budget."

Francis then shifted to the healthcare side of things. Through the 2024 budget, the Saskatchewan Health Authority is getting an operating increase of $248.3 million (5.6 per cent) in comparison to the 2023-24 Provincial Budget.

"Healthcare is always a concern, and it's the second bullet in the budget messaging," said Francis. "Care for mental health and addictions, care for basic services. There's a big lift there as well."

The final pillar of the recent provincial budget was the record $42.4 million in municipal revenue sharing. This opens up a whole realm of possibilities for Saskatchewan cities, towns, villages, and municipalities.

"Our municipal revenue sharing is up 14.2 per cent, which is very significant. It's tied to the PST, so if the economy is doing well, and there is more revenue from the PST, then the municipalities have a share in that." said Francis, sharing the provincial economy as a good indicator of just how much revenue sharing locations can expect.

As mentioned, the latest budget was the final one for Francis who won't be running in the upcoming provincial election. He talked about the importance of budget day, one of the biggest days on the Legislative Assembly calendar, and all the work that goes into drafting the final document.

"It's a great question, because what I feel was one of my most important, if not the most important role I had in my six years as the member for the area, was my three years on treasury board." began Francis.

"It is such important work that really goes un-noticed. A pile of work from every ministry perspective. Each ministry develops their budget, brings it to treasury board for analysis, for either approval or denial. We compile all that information into a cabinet package, and then cabinet looks at the proposals from each ministry, including capital expenditures, and so it's quite a process. It takes a good chunk of the winter to get through it, and probably the heaviest lifting, the most amount of hours, but the most rewarding as well. Budget time is super important to me."

Francis was only a part of a few budgets, in comparison to 17 budgets in a row for Saskatchewan's current Minister of Finance, and Deputy Premier Donna Harpauer. Working with Minister Harpauer has been a treat for Francis, and with Harpauer joining Francis in stepping away from politics this upcoming election, the Kindersley MLA wanted to send his well-wishes to the MLA for Humboldt-Watrous.

"Especially with it being Minister Harpauer's last budget, she has been involved in 17 in a row, seven of which in a row she has been Finance Minister. She has done a great job, this is a really good budget." said Francis. "It's a modest deficit, and it likely could have been balanced, but we knew there was pressures in education, pressures in healthcare, and pressures at the municipal levels in our communities."

Francis talked about the other side of the coin when it comes to these investments. Instead of cuts that could have helped with a balanced budget, Francis talked about the investments being made into Saskatchewan's future.

"We knew those investments were important and needed at this time. I think it's a great budget, it was a great job done by our treasury board, and all the ministries to bring it together. The economy is doing well, the economy looks like its poised to continue to do well, so I think a path to balance is coming in the budget structurally, and that's what is important to this party. To make the spending investments where they need to happen, and education is a perfect example right now with what is going on."

During the recent Premier's Dinner, Scott Moe shared that Saskatchewan is, "welcoming the challenges" of growth. The current growth in Saskatchewan's population is a big reason for the recent initiatives from the provincial government.

"A modest deficit, but still taking care of the things we need to take care of. I think it's a great last budget for our finance minister." finished Francis.