Restaurant vouchers, record spending on infrastructure and tax cuts are bricks in the path back to prosperity in NSW Treasurer Dominic Perrottet’s pandemic budget.
NSW’s six-year streak of budget surpluses officially ended in the year to June 30, going $6.9 billion into the red, while the forecast deficit for 2020/21 is $16 billion.
Scroll down to see how NSW residents can take advantage of their $100 vouchers
That’s mainly due to $29 billion spent on health and economic support packages to respond to COVID-19.
“This budget is completely appropriate for the time and ensures we get as many people in work as we can,” the treasurer told reporters on Tuesday.
“In the good times, we’ve had strong fiscal management behind the scenes (and) that has our state in a very strong position.”
A large growth in expenses goes against Liberal thinking but it’s not a budget about ideology, Perrottet said.
“It’s about doing what’s right.
“My complete focus right now is to use every dollar we have to keep people in work.”
Businesses will save an average $34,000 annually due to a rise in the payroll tax threshold to $1.2 million and a temporary cut in the rate from 5.45 per cent to 4.85 per cent over two years.
The changes to the state’s most lucrative tax will cost the budget bottom line $2.4 billion, while property stamp duty is expected to be $1.2 billion lower than earlier forecast.
Unemployment is forecast to peak in December 2020 at 7.5 per cent before falling to 6 per cent in 2021/22 and 5.25 per cent in 2023/24.
Like all forecasts, that’s based on the assumption a COVID vaccine will be available to Australians in the second quarter of 2021.
If it takes a year longer, keeping international borders closed and migrants away, household consumption will remain suppressed and unemployment is forecast to rise again in 2022/23 to 6.75 per cent.
Expenses grew 9.7 per cent in 2019/20 – well over the 5.6 per cent long-term target – primarily due to COVID-19 measures ($4.2b) and bushfire support ($1.3b).
Another $7.8 billion dished out on COVID-19 support and stimulus packages will take spending growth to 11.2 per cent in 2020/21.
Depressed revenues (down $1.5 billion in 2020/21) will lead to record borrowing, taking net debt from two per cent of Gross State Product in December 2019 to 8.4 per cent in June 2021 and 14.7 per cent in June 2024.
But Perrottet said it needs to be put in perspective, with Victoria’s net debt at 8.5 per cent before the pandemic and NSW government 10-year bonds being issued at 1.1 per cent.
“We will take advantage of these interest rates that are at record lows,” he said.
Coronavirus restrictions are still costing the NSW economy $400 million each week, down from $1.4 billion in April.
The state’s net worth, which sat at $249 billion in June 2019, will bottom out at $228.3 billion in June 2022.
At a cost of $500 million, each adult resident will be given four $25 digital vouchers to use at eateries and on arts and tourism attractions across the state.
Sydney CBD will host a pilot next month before a statewide rollout.
City-shaping infrastructure including two Sydney metro train lines costing $19.6 billion and a new $1 billion Bankstown and Lidcombe hospital are part of a record $107.1b spend on projects over the next four years.
A new public sector wage policy, pausing increases for senior public servants and keeping others at no more than 1.5 per cent, will save $4.3 billion to June 2024.
The projected deficit is expected to rise to $6.8 billion in 2021/22, $2.1 billion in 2022/23 and $460 million in 2023/24.
NSW vouchers: How to get your vouchers
Ahead of the budget speech on Tuesday, Perrottet announced that $100 worth of digital vouchers will be given to NSW residents as part of the $500 million Out & About program designed to boost business activity, stimulate the economy and support local jobs.
“Every NSW resident aged 18 and over will be eligible for four $25 vouchers worth $100 in total – with the program designed to encourage people to spend multiple times to support their local businesses,” Perrottet said in a statement.
“Two vouchers can be used for eating in at venues such as restaurants, cafes, clubs and other food service venues, and two vouchers can be used for entertainment and recreation, such as cultural institutions, performing arts, cinemas, and amusement parks. “
Service NSW will conduct a pilot of the program in December in Sydney’s CBD.
NSW residents will need to apply for the vouchers via the Service NSW app.
Vouchers will not be redeemable for tobacco, alcohol or gambling.
In numbers: NSW Budget 2020/21
Deficit: $16 billion
Revenue: $82.1 billion
Expenditure: $98.1 billion
Net debt: $53.2 billion
GST revenue: $16.3 billion
Unemployment: 6.5 per cent (peaking at 7.5 per cent in December quarter)
Growth: negative-0.75 per cent (2020/21), 1.4 per cent (per year through to 2023/24)
Return to surplus: 2024/25
Total COVID-19 response over four years: $29 billion
Health: $26.1 billion (26.6 per cent)
Education: $19.2 billion (19.6 per cent)
Transport: $15.1 billion (15.4 per cent)
Public order and safety: $9.4 billion (9.6 per cent)
Social protection: $8.9 billion (9.0 per cent)
Public services: $7.2 billion (7.3 per cent)
Economic affairs: $6.8 billion (6.9 per cent)
– with AAP