By ERWIN CHLANDA
Chamber of Commerce head Julie Ross and Mayor Damien Ryan had a low-key but positive reaction to the NT’s $5.7 billion Budget handed down by Treasurer Dave Tollner (pictured) today.
“I had a hope not list, not a hope list,” says Ms Ross.
“We feared increases to the payroll tax and the introduction of a land tax or fire services levies may be brought in.
“Fortunately, this did not happen,” she says.
A sign of the state of the economy in The Centre was Chamber members asking on how deal with redundancies.
“January to March was the worst financial quarter for a number of trade-based businesses in the region,” says Ms Ross.
Almost as far back as the Martin government the Top End IMPEX project had been sucking government money out the regions.
As far as infrastructure projects are concerned, “there is not a lot of new stuff, especially down here,” says Ms Ross, but additional funding to support employers for traineeships and apprenticeships is continuing,
It’s pleasing to see the Business Enterprise Centre is continuing. SA has stopped funding theirs.”
Mayor Ryan noted “some” spending on infrastructure for tourism (parks and mountain bikes tracks), as well as big budgets for health and police.
He welcomed support for major events and sporting events, such as the Telegraph station, and upgraded mountain bike routes such as those used in the Ingkerreke sponsored event.
He was happy to see funding for an Stuart Highway railway overpass south of the town, a project under discussion for some time, especially considering that train traffic is increasing.
“It’s a good step. Now we have to continue the discussion of an overpass in the centre of the town” – taking the Larapinta Road over the railway crossing.
Mayor Ryan says the Town Council budget will be put up for public comment at the end of the month.
Mr Tollner told the media lock-up this morning that the Power and Water Corporation was the Budget’s main headache.
Had cuts not been made by the new government the NT’s debt would have ballooned to $5.5 billion in 2015-16 and debt repayments would have been $1.1m a day from next year. It is now $990,000.
Moody’s credit has been reduced to a “negative outlook”.
Since the mini budget, which reduced some of the debt burden, $120m GST funding was lost.
The target of a balanced Budget has been deferred from 2015-16 at the time of the Mini Budget, to 2017-18. 80% of NT revenue comes from the Commonwealth, including GST and grants. The corresponding figure for most other Australian jurisdictions is 50%.
Mr Tollner said the Budget is based on one of the lowest taxing regimes in the Commonwealth. Criticism of this by the Grants Commission has resulted in some additional revenue raising, notably measures generating an additional $10m from the mining industry, including one tax pegged on the value of the mineral, not profits.
The big items Territory-wide are $1.36 billion for health, covering in part unfunded commitments, $847m for education
and $670m for community safety.
MAJOR PROJECTS IN CENTRAL AUSTRALIA
$29.6m upgrades for the hospital
$13m rail overpass for Stuart Highway 10.5 km south of Alice Springs
$10.9m police facilities
$5.97m health centre at Hermannsburg (Ntaria)
$5m seal of Tanami Road
$5m law courts capacity in Alice Springs
$4.8m Namatjira Drive as part of the Red Centre Way
$4.58m correctional centre
$4.35m Kilgariff headworks
$3.4m police facilities
$2.5m sealing Utopia airstrip
$1.57 upgrading Papunya Health Centre
$1.26m building a youth, alcohol and other drugs service
Stand-out operational funding items IN THE CENTRE
BUSINESS AND ECONOMIC DEVELOMENT
$16.68m Charles Darwin University
$760,000 Tourism Central Australia
$250,000 tourism marketing campaign
$190,000 evaluate table grape varieties, improve water use
$130,000 water re-use opportunities
$100,000 tourism development officer
$57.5m police and emergency services
$40.1m correctional services
$4.11m “community based clients” of correctional services
$2.77m youth detainees
$1.1m sex offender treatment, indigenous violence
$780,000 family violence response
$78.7m primary schools
$30.6m senior schools
$26.4m middle schools
$4.7m remote students, School of the Air
$1.85m Sentenced to a Job initiative
$230m acute care
$62.2m non-acute care
$5.5m emergency department
$5.8m Desert Park
$500,000 drag strip
Budget: Low-key thumbs up from Alice leaders
By ERWIN CHLANDA