NSW has posted a massive $4.5 billion budget surplus, splashing out on infrastructure, health and education but as the economic powerhouse of the nation, it will receive a smaller slice of the GST pie and foot the bill for other states.
The healthy result for 2016/17 was largely thanks to Sydney’s white-hot property market and sales of the state’s electricity networks.
With the state’s books sitting comfortably in the black for the next four years, treasurer Dominic Perrottet set aside $72.7 billion for state infrastructure.
Roads and rail will be boosted including the controversial WestConnex project, which will recieve $3.2 billion alone.
About $2.2 billion will go towards 123 new and upgraded schools to cope with surging enrolments.
Regional infrastructure will receive $1.3 billion, palliative care will be boosted by $100 million and the Prince of Wales Hospital in Sydney’s East will grab $720 million.
Mr Perrottet described a new $100 rebate for school-aged children to spend on recreational sport as the “soul of the budget” while first home buyers will see stamp duty scrapped on homes up to $650,000.
But there are financial storm clouds on the horizon.
The surplus forecast drops to $2.7 billion in 2017/18, with growth to average 1.8 per cent over the next four years to 2020/21.
GST revenue has meanwhile been revised down by $1.4 billion to 2019/20, with NSW’s share reaching a historic low.
The numbers have prompted the treasurer to take a swipe at Canberra.
“It’s completely unfair on the state of NSW that we’re paying a wages bill for the Queensland public service … and are paying over a $1 billion in 2021 for South Australians who can’t even keep their lights on,” he said.
More privatisations are in store to pay for future infrastructure, including the sales of the WestConnex and the state’s stake in the Snowy Hydro scheme to the federal government.
Labor leader Luke Foley claims the budget is out of touch with battling NSW families and many of the government’s announcements are “a cruel hoax”, with most of the hospital projects not scheduled for completion until the mid-2020s.