The maiden budget of the new Congress government in the State is a package of doles to the poor and the downtrodden, apparently with an eye on the Lok Sabha elections apart from simultaneously attempting to hit out at the previous Bharatiya Janata Party government, particularly on the pitfalls in handling the finances of the State.
Chief Minister Siddaramaiah, who holds the Finance portfolio, presented a record eighth budget that projected an estimated expenditure of over Rs. 1.21 lakh crore against the total receipts that are marginally less at Rs. 1.2 lakh crore. A string of schemes and incentives have been announced for the benefit of the farmers, the Scheduled Castes and the Scheduled Tribes, apart from the backward classes.
Technically, this is a revised budget since the budget for the calendar year was presented to the Legislative Assembly on February 8 by the then Chief Minister, Jagadish Shettar, and he had also obtained a vote on account for the first four months (until July 31).
Notable among the relief provided is the reduction in the sales tax on diesel from 16.75 per cent to 15.65 per cent, which will translate into a 51 paise reduction per litre of diesel sold in Bangalore. The common people, trade and industry had pleaded with successive governments for a reduction in the sales tax applicable on petrol and diesel.
The Chief Minister has largely stayed away from imposing fresh taxes — except that on liquor wherein the additional excise duty has been hiked by 16 per cent across all the 17 slabs. Maxicabs, which ferry children to schools, have been given a 50 per cent concession in motor vehicle tax. The value-added tax (VAT) increased from 5 per cent to 5.5 per cent and from 14 per cent to 14.5 per cent in August last to raise money for the drought will be continued although it was originally scheduled to restored to the original level on July 31, 2013.
The agricultural sector has been given adequate importance although the separate booklet in which the BJP government had compiled the budgetary allocations to the fields of agriculture and related fields has been withdrawn. Short-term cooperative loans provided to farmers at 0 per cent (up to Rs. 1 lakh) and at 1 per cent (between Rs. 1 lakh to Rs. 3 lakh) has been enhanced and farmers would be eligible for loans up to Rs. 2 lakh at 0 per cent and at 1 per cent between Rs. 2 lakh to Rs. 3 lakh and at 3 per cent for loans up to Rs. 10 lakh.
The budget estimates for 2013–14 present a surplus of Rs. 595.85 crore in the revenue account and a deficit of Rs. 516.31 crore in the capital account, resulting in an overall surplus of Rs. 79.54 crore.