As the NSW Government's bottom line is hit by declining stamp duty and GST revenues, it has projected an $802 million operating surplus in 2018-2019, but will honour its spending commitments including $355m extra for drought assistance.
Most of the 2019 budget does not contain any new spending announcements, although it is following through on its election commitments that will see its regional growth fund hit $1.7 billion and total drought assistance hit $1.8 billion.
Part of the drought spend includes $170 million for special infrastructure projects including augmenting the groundwater supply at Dubbo.
NSW Treasurer Dominic Perrottet triumphed the success of the recently opened Metro line in Sydney saying it showed the government was delivering important infrastructure on time.
Mr Perrottet said NSW was entering a new "golden century".
"We have taken windfall revenues and lazy assets and are transforming them into bricks, mortar, concrete and steel."
He said NSW was growing above trend, "recording the fastest per capita growth of any state" and preserving the state's Triple A rating. The 2019 Budget was a "budget of delivery", after a "financing" phase of government. A future $93 billion in future infrastructure spending was fully funded and there were no new privatisation projects on the cabinet table.
But he warned growth was forecast to slow, with stamp duty revenue falling by $10.6 billion since 2017, and a $2.3 billion loss in federal GST revenue. NSW would fight for a better GST outcome, he said, announcing a review of funding arrangements between the states and the Commonwealth.
He said times were tough in regional NSW with farmers battling "what some say is the worst drought in living memory". Despite this, regional NSW has added more jobs than all regions combined.
The budget provided "more transport subsidies for stock, fodder and water. Further funds for emergency water supplies, and waiving charges for water licences, interest on drought loans and local land service rates".
The Government has promised new police stations at Bega, Goulburn and Jindabyne and major upgrades at Bathurst and Bourke. It will also build a new state-of-the art $35 million police education and training centre at Dubbo. The Government is also contributing $17.3 million towards a new Western Cancer Centre in Dubbo.
Some of the major regional spends already announced include:
- $500m to replace country bridges.
- $500m for country roads.
- $37.5m to extend wild dog fence.
- $32m to start feasibility study to raise Wyangala Dam.
- $52 m for overtaking lanes on Newell Highway.
- $44.3m for sealing of Cobb and Silver Highways.
- $8m for five new Country University Centres.
- $20m to investigate Special Activation Precincts (digital), including in Wagga Wagga and Dubbo.
- $92m to continue Creative Kids Program.
- $22.9m for ag research centres.
- $9.2m for showground imporvements.
- $8.2m for mental health program including extra farm-gate counsellors.
- $24m for three new Doppler radars.
Mr Perrottet said NSW would record an operating surplus of $802m in 2018-19, with forecast average surpluses of $1.7 billion each year to 2023. The 2018-2019 surplus is lower than the one in 2017-2018 of $4.3 billion.
The government was increasing access to government services with four new mobile Service NSW buses.
Agriculture Minister Adam Marshall said the Government was extending drought assistance by $355m, a package announced in Coolamon last week.
"This drought has been far more prolonged and severe than anyone could ever have imagined and thats why we're delivering more than $700 million in the budget to help our primary producers with on-farm measures through the drought."
The Government will invest more than $15m in partnerships with groups including the GRDC, CSIRO and the University of new England to "develop new R&D capacity".
The Government will go ahead with plans for an Agriculture Commissioner and establishing a Dairy Business Advisory Unit. It will invest nearly $35m in a Forestry Industry Innovation Fund. The Government will also fund a new Australian Opal Centre at Lightning Ridge at a cost of $7.5million.
The Government will extend the Quad Bike Safety Improvement Program by $2.8 million, that will include rebates for farmers "who prefer drones as alternatives to quad bikes".
The government was cutting departments from 10 to 8, but said there would be no loss in frontline services.
The Government spend on all education areas will amount to $21 billion, with funds for 190 new and upgraded schools and 4600 more teachers, "delivering the highest number of teachers in state schools in government history". There will be 1500 new police, many of whom will work in the regions.