Monday, 2 June 2008

$58b spree plunges NSW further into debt

New South Wales Treasurer Michael Costa is defending his decision to plunge the state further into debt by $21 billion to pay for a huge rise in infrastructure spending.

Mr Costa has revealed tomorrow's state Budget will include $58 billion in spending on infrastructure across sectors including roads, health, transport, housing and education over the next four years.

Infrastructure spending for the next financial year will be 11 per cent higher at $14 billion.

The Treasurer says some of the rise will be funded by borrowings but the state can afford to take on the debt.

"Our total capital expenditure will be somewhere in the order of $58 billion over the next four years, so that's a massive amount spent on capital," he said.

"That's an appropriate amount given community expectations and it's also prudent in the sense that it's also within our triple-A credit rating...

"The state's balance sheet's in a very strong position and we can afford to take on debt to fund infrastructure that's for the long term."

State Opposition Leader Barry O'Farrell says taxpayers should be horrified.

"These are the usual Labor tactics - try and spend their way out of unpopularity and don't worry about the economic consequences," he said.

Teachers dismayed
School maintenance will receive an $11 million boost, taking the total spend to $276 million.

There will also be an increase of $116 million for new and upgraded schools and TAFE facilities.

But NSW Teachers Federation president Maree O'Halloran says that is nowhere near enough.

"That's a paltry increase," she said. "The Government's increases are barely enough to cover inflation and certainly not enough to fix up the backlog.

"They sound like big figures but unfortunately, there has been such a backlog that it needs a significant boost just for maintenance alone, for example - we need a boost of about $90 million extra per year."

Rail, bio-security
There will be no extra funding for rail infrastructure, with the capital works budget remaining steady at $1.6 billion.

But the Government maintains there will be record public transport spending this year, with $12 billion set aside for the north-west metro rail line project.

The Budget also includes more than $43 million for a bio-security facility at Camden, in south-west Sydney.

Primary Industries Minister Ian Macdonald says a new high-security wing will be built to combat outbreaks of exotic disease from plants and animals.

No comments: