By Bryce Prosser
Today’s NSW State Budget, delivered by Treasurer Berejiklian, announced an underlying Budget surplus of $713 million for 2015-16 which will be used to fund major new investments in infrastructure, new job creation initiatives and to provide a boost to NSW public services.
CPA Australia has welcomed the bold initiatives undertaken by the NSW government and the commitment it has shown to make the difficult decisions when it comes to the State’s assets.
According to the Budget papers, the positive financial result for NSW has been driven by changes in Commonwealth grants, strong stamp duty receipts and increased GST payments.
The NSW budget is forecast to remain in good health going forward with projected budget surpluses of $713 million in 2015-16 rising modestly to $895 million in 2018-19. This does not include the significant boost that the NSW Budget will receive from their transport reforms which increases their budget surplus next year to $2.5 billion.
Over the next two years the NSW economy is expected to grow by around 3.0 per cent dropping to 2.75 per cent in 2017-18 and 2018-19. Treasurer Berejiklian commented in her speech that "subdued growth in both the domestic and international economies... will moderate our growth."
Employment growth in NSW is expected to remain above trend at around 1.75 per cent over the next two years, falling to 1.25 per cent in 2017-18 and 2018-19. Unemployment is forecast to remain steady at 5.75 per cent.
Rebuilding NSW – a $20 billion Plan
One of the key areas of interest in this year’s Budget is the Rebuilding NSW Plan. The $20 billion plan will be funded by the lease of 49 per cent of the NSW electricity network with $6 billion of the fund committed to projects in regional NSW.
Related: More about the state and federal budgets
The major investments under this plan will be $8.9 billion for Urban Public Transport, $2.4 billion for Urban Roads, $4.1 billion for Regional Transport, $1.5 billion for Culture, Sport and Regional Tourism, $1 billion for Water Security, $1 billion for Education, $1 billion for Health and $100 million for Corridor Identification and Reservation.
New investments in infrastructure
In addition to the Rebuilding NSW plan, today’s Budget has announced that $68.8 billion has been allocated over the next four years towards infrastructure investments in key service delivery areas including:
- Roads and Transport - $38 billion over the next four years:
- $1.7 billion towards building WestConnex
- $1.4 billion for the Pacific Highway is duplicated between Hexham and the Queensland border
- $977 million for the Sydney Metro Northwest project
- $120 million for the CBD and South East Light Rail
- $51 million towards NorthConnex, in addition to a $224 million contribution to the project.
- Hospital and ambulance station upgrades, redevelopments and expansions including - $5 million over the next four years.
- New schools and training facilities - $2.1 billion over four years:
- New schools will be established at Bella Vista, Narellan, the Old Kings School site at Parramatta and a Networked Specialist school in Dubbo
- $172 million will be provided to continue 27 major government school projects
- $101 million will be provided for TAFE construction and IT projects
Initiatives to boost jobs
Prior to the election the Government committed to creating an additional 150,000 new jobs in New South Wales over the next four years.
This Budget has allocated $678 million in funding and incentives over the next four years to help local businesses to grow and attract interstate and international businesses.
As part of this initiative, the Government will:
- extend the Jobs Action Plan until 30 June 2019
- create a Small Business Employment Incentive Scheme which will provide a grant of up to $2,000 to non-payroll tax paying small businesses when they hire new employees from 1 July 2015
- establish a Jobs of Tomorrow Scholarship Fund which will provide 25,000 scholarships for students undertaking qualifications for technology and growth jobs
- increase the Investment Attraction Scheme to $190 million to encourage interstate and international businesses to relocate to New South Wales
New initiatives have also been announced to support vocational education and support education for students from regional areas including:
- Provide fee-free scholarships for 200,000 15 to 30 year olds to undertake government subsidised vocational education and training courses, and
- $8 million over the next four years to provide viable pathways into education, training and employment for young people in regional areas
Increasing housing affordability
The additional "windfall tax revenue" received by the NSW Government from the current property boom has been allocated to the Housing Acceleration Fund (HAF). The HAF was established to fund critical growth infrastructure projects and support housing growth and will receive an additional $400 million to support their activities.
The Government has also allocated $20.9 million over four years for the Greater Sydney Commission, which will oversee the implementation of the Plan for Growing Sydney in partnership with councils, the community and stakeholders. This plan has identified the need for an additional 664,000 dwellings in Greater Sydney by 2031.
The Government has also allocated $89.1 million over four years to the Department of Planning and Environment to speed up approval processing times and reduce delay costs, which unnecessarily add to construction costs.
In today’s Budget the Government has committed to increasing frontline staff by employing an additional 3,500 full-time equivalent positions by 2019 including at least 2,100 more nurses and midwives, 700 doctors, 300 allied health professionals and 400 hospital support staff.
Other key health initiatives over the next four years include $159 million to advance medical research, $60 million to continue support for Local Health Districts to develop partnerships to allow patients access to a seamless and integrated range of health care services and $32 million for community-based palliative care services.
Key education initiatives announced today include:
- $224 million over four years for "Quality Teaching, Successful Students" which is designed to enable 1,000 of the State’s best teachers time to mentor and coach other teachers, demonstrate effective teaching strategies and support principals in making schools thriving learning communities
- $167 million over four years for ‘Supported Students, Successful Students’, to fund additional school counsellors, flexible wellbeing resources and targeted support for Aboriginal and refugee students, their families and communities
- $20 million over two years to establish an Aboriginal Centre for Excellence in Western Sydney
Law and order
Today the NSW Government announced a range of initiatives to support NSW Police including $100 million over four years to improve police technology such as mobile fingerprint scanners and body worn video cameras, over $70 million to enhance police specialist commands including an increase in police numbers to 16,795 by December 2018, funding to build or refurbish police stations in Deniliquin, Gunnedah, Bay and Basin, Liverpool, Moss Vale, Tweed Heads, Lake Macquarie, Riverstone and Walgett.
The Government has also announced new initiatives for emergency services including $24.3 million for the Strategic Disaster Readiness Package to help prevent and respond to flood and storm events, $18.4 million to build or refurbish Fire & Rescue NSW fire stations across NSW and $17 million for the continued replacement of essential firefighting vehicles to boost the capability of our firefighters.
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