By Ashleigh De'ath, Client Service Analyst
The Palaszczuk Government today handed down its first budget.
Treasurer, Curtis Pitt outlined the Government's commitment to deliver on its election promises to increase health and education funding and creating more job opportunities for Queenslanders.
Mr Pitt said the Queensland Government was forecasting a $1.2 billion operating surplus in 2015-16 and $6.9 billion across the forward estimates. These surpluses will help fund core services across government, including:
• A record health budget of $14.2 billion - an increase of more than 4% with an additional $2.3 billion committed over four years.
• A record education and training budget of $12.4 billion which will contribute to more teachers, support and better classrooms.
• $4.8 billion support for regional and rural Queensland, including $200 million for the Building Our Regions infrastructure fund.
• A $754.6 million vocational education and training package.
• $500 million new funding over four years for a Schools and Hospital Fund.
• $347 million to Queensland pensioner and seniors card holder concessions.
• An extra $31.3 million funding over four years to tackle domestic violence.
• $30 million over two years towards building a new State Netball Centre.
The Labor Government's commitments have been estimated by the Treasurer to cost $1.975 billion over the next four years with funding of $2.315 billion identified through offsets and reprioritisations – providing a net fiscal improvement of $340 million.
Mr Pitt said the Government's Debt Action Plan would involve:
• $4.1 billion reduction in general government debt from re-gearing government-owned energy network corporations. This will deliver a reduction in interest payments of almost $600 million.
• $3.4 billion reduction in total debt by funding long-service leave on an emergent basis when the leave is paid rather than holding a central investment allocation. There will be no change for employees, with all long-service leave entitlements being maintained and met when claimed. This aligns the Government's management of Long Service Leave with standard practice models and delivers a $600 million reduction in interest payments.
• $2 billion reduction in total debt through a temporary suspension for five years of defined benefit employer contributions, while maintaining the scheme's fully-funded status. There will be no change to the entitlements of defined benefit members. This delivers a $150 million reduction in interest payments.
Key Areas and Initiatives
• $488.7 million to continue delivery of the Sunshine Coast University Hospital.
• $113.6 million to finalise a major projects such as Logan Hospital, Lady Cilento Children's Hospital, Mackay Base Hospital, Mount Isa health Campus and Gold Coast University Hospital.
Training and Skills
• $1.6 billion Skilling Queenslanders for Work initiative which will support some 32,000 Queenslanders back into work.
• Working Queensland jobs plan which will focus on skills, training and innovative industries to promote jobs growth and investment
• $34.5 million in funding to restore TAFE over four years.
• $40 million to establish Jobs Queensland.
• $10.1 billion infrastructure funding program and total capital purchases of $35.4 billion over the four years to 2018-19.
• $200 million over two years going towards the Building Our Regions program. The program will be brought forward by one year to start in 2015-16 and will focus on four key areas:
1. Transport Infrastructure Development Scheme, worth $60 million over two years.
2. Regional Capital Fund, worth $70 million over two years.
3. Royalties for Resource Producing Communities Fund, with an allocation of $55 million over two years.
4. Remote Communities Infrastructure Fund, worth $15 million over two years.
• $295 million additional funding for three new schools in Townsville and Cairns and refurbishment at four hospitals over fours years.
• $300 million towards education maintenance over fours years.
Key capital program project highlights for 2015-16 include:
• $568.4 million to continue rail network improvements, including between Lawnton and Petrie stations, and commencing the duplication of the Gold Coast line between Coomera and Helensvale stations.
• $304.6 million to overhaul rollingstock, including stabling facilities and initial spending on a key project that will deliver 75 new trains.
• $427.3 million for state schools in 2015-16.
• $408.9 million for local councils for recovery and betterment projects following Tropical Cyclone and other natural disasters.
• $175.9 million towards upgrading the Gateway Motorway North to six lanes.
• $172.1 million towards the Toowoomba Second Range Crossing.
• $161 million to upgrade major Gold Coast roads in the lead up to the 2018 Commonwealth Games.
• $113.1 million towards duplication works on the Bruce Highway (Cooroy to Curra).
• $100 million over four years towards a sports stadium in Townsville.
• $30 million over two years to develop and build a state netball facility at the Queensland Sport and Athletics Centre, in partnership with Netball Queensland.