FREDERICTON, NB – The premier says a referendum on whether to increase the HST is possible before next year.

David Alward says increasing the tax and imposing highway tolls are some of the suggestions being discussed as Finance Minister Blaine Higgs prepares to release a provincial budget in March.

Speaking in Fredericton, Alward said he doesn’t have a mandate to increase the HST, so a referendum would be required if his government chooses to do that.

The province’s Taxpayer Protection Act requires a referendum if the government wants to introduce a new tax, raise the HST or impose highway tolls.

Last week, Higgs said the Progressive Conservative government won’t meet a promise to balance the provincial budget by 2014.

The deficit for this year has been projected to hit $356 million, but Higgs says that’s expected to get worse.