Families across NSW will be handed $150 vouchers for every child enrolled in school next year. Here’s how it will work.
On the back of an “unprecedented” year that saw the state struggle through “the hangover of Covid” and floods, the NSW Government has announced a budget focused on health and women.
NSW Treasurer Matt Kean’s first budget unveiled spending massive on areas emphasized in the federal election like women, healthcare, and rising cost of living.
The pre-election budget was full of sweeteners for all residents in NSW, including a $150 back to school voucher for all children and massive cuts to road tolls and household energy bills.
Billions of dollars will be spent on supporting families and those worried about the increasing cost of living and inflation pressures, which the Treasurer blamed on the “lingering effects of Covid” and the international supply chain.
“This is a reform budget. It’s helping people with the challenges they face today,” the NSW Treasurer said.
One of the biggest benefactors of the NSW 2022-23 Budget is the state’s women.
Following on from a strong voter swing towards accountability and equality in the federal election, the NSW Government announced it would spend $5.6 billion over the next decade to tackle the barriers facing women.
In this budget, $1.2 billion will be spent on getting women back into the workforce and supporting survivors of domestic, family, and sexual violence.
By encouraging women to re-enter the workforce, the NSW Treasurer forecast the state economy would grow 8 per cent by 2060.
“The women of New South Wales are some of the most highly educated anywhere in the world, yet the workforce participation rate of women is 9 per cent lower than the participation rate of men,” he said.
Up to 95,000 women are expected to enter the workforce as a result of the reforms, mainly in childcare, which will increase household incomes by $4,400 a year.
Mr Kean noted too many families cannot access childcare, so women are left earning 30 cents of every dollar they make due to the loss of family tax benefits and costs of childcare, which leads to a lower participation in the workforce.
“There are a number of structural and cultural barriers that are still in the way of women looking to progress in our society. We’re looking to remove those barriers,” he said.
FAMILIES AND CHILDREN
The NSW Government has committed billions of dollars to families after a year of disruption and discord. Notably families have been promised a whopping $7.2 billion to support their budgets.
Notably, all primary and secondary aged schoolchildren in NSW will be eligible for a $150 back-to-school voucher in 2023 to assist with the cost of school supplies.
The government announced it would spend $3.8 billion dollars to support education for young children as an “once-in-a-generation investment” in the future.
After research revealed one third of NSW children were living in childcare deserts where they were unable to access childcare, the state government announced it would invest $4 billion over years to make preschool affordable for NSW families.
Parents of preschool children will be eligible for fee relief of up to $2000 a year, while students at community and mobile preschools will be able to claim double that amount.
The government will also spend more than $280 million over four years to attract childhood educators to the profession to ensure the scheme is viable.
Children will also benefit from a $1.6 billion decision to build and upgrade public schools around the state.
“Our children are our future and a great education can set them up for life,” Mr Kean said.
NSW residents hoping to buy a house will benefit from being able to choose between paying annual stamp duty or a property tax.
That choice will cost NSW taxpayer $729 million over the next four years but allow homeowners to get a foothold in the increasingly inflated housing market.
Mr Kean estimated potential homeowners would pay $1,200 instead of the current average stamp duty of $30,000.
The government also announced $2.8 billion would be spent to expand access to affordable housing across the state, including in regional communities.
For single, vulnerable or elderly people, $780 million will be committed over two years to a shared equity scheme to assist in purchasing a home.
“We’re making it as easy as possible for people to enter the housing market,” he said.
“Owning your own home is owning a stake in this nation.”
One of the biggest benefactors of the NSW budget is healthcare with a $4.5 billion investment into the health workforce over four years.
The staggering cost will attract an additional 10,000 staff to bolster the system and ease pressure on staff and overloaded hospitals.
Nearly half of that multi-billion dollar push will go to improving regional healthcare facilities.
Healthcare staff and other public sector workers are set to benefit from a 3 per cent wage increase over the next two years, which the NSW Treasurer labeled “one of the most generous public sector pay increases in the country”.
Frontline health workers will also receive a one-off $3000 payment in acknowledgment of their tireless efforts during the pandemic. Mr Kean strongly denied there would be any cuts to frontline services.
The government will also put $1 billion into science and technology to encourage innovation in lavatories and testing rooms.
Mr Kean noted the state experienced the power of medical science during the pandemic, and said NSW could play a part in future scientific developments. He said one dollar spent in research and development yielded $3.50 in economic benefits for the state.
Mr Kean assured NSW residents that investments into renewable energy will ensure last week’s energy crisis will be avoided in future.
He said the record $1.9 billion investment would transform the state into a “renewable energy superpower” to “hand the planet to our children in a better state than we found it.”
The commitment to renewable energy included a newly announced $218.9 million plan to create a fleet of zero-emissions buses over seven years.
The installation of rooftop solar and energy efficient appliances will save households $600 a year on power bills, the government predicts. The Energy Bill Busting initiative will cost the state $128 million and cut the costs of gas and electricity for eligible households.
“This is about future proofing our state and driving down bills,” he said.
“We may be a sunburnt country, but we are also sun-blessed.”
Mr Kean noted the government is on track to meet the goal of zero emissions by 2050.
The NSW Government expects the nearly $2 billion investment in renewable energy infrastructure will make regional NSW into an internationally recognized powerhouse of clean energy.
Mr Kean spruiked the 2022-23 budget as a road map “that leaves no one behind”, including residents in regional areas who felt isolated during the pandemic.
The budget commits to investing $1.6 billion in regional and rural NSW, on top of an eye-watering $3.5 billion investment in disaster relief for flood affected communities.
The vast majority of that regional investment – $1.3 billion – will be injected into the Regional Growth Fund which has already delivered more than 2,700 projects across the state. More than $835 million will go towards developing a regional rail fleet to connect the state.
“Your opportunities in life should not depend on where you live,” the NSW Treasurer said.
The flagging critical minerals industry will also be rejuvenated by a $130 million expansion package to help create future employment.
Most importantly, regional healthcare will get a much-needed helping hand in the form of $2.4 billion. After the ravages of the pandemic, the NSW Government has recognized the need for equitable and quality healthcare in regional areas.
The budget has also committed to increasing the housing availability for crucial workers like healthcare employees and police so communities.
After months of agonizing over rising road tolls and increasing petrol prices, drivers in NSW will be relieved to know the government will lend a helping hand.
The NSW government will provide toll relief to the tune of $520 million for those feeling the pinch. Mr Kean estimates the investment will save drivers up to $750 a year.
Mr Kean said the government is committed to “transforming the state through roads and rail” with upgrades to the Western Harbor Tunnel, extension of the M6, upgrades to the Great Western Highway, and a Metro network for Sydney.
First Nations residents in NSW have been recognized in the budget with a $716 million investment into housing, education, and community services.
200 new homes will be built for First Nations people and 260 homes will be upgraded in push to improve housing, land rights and community infrastructure priced at more than $317 million.
Nearly $100 million will be spent on building nine new Aboriginal Family and Child Centers and expanding existing centers. The NSW government has also committed to the creation of a $9.9 million Family and Child Advocacy Support program.
First Nations languages and cultures have secured a boost of more than $91 million, which will also be aimed at survivors of the Stolen Generation and repatriating the remains of First Nations people.
THE BOTTOM LINE
The NSW Government has revised the state’s deficit to almost double the mid-year expectation at $11.3 billion for 2022-23.
The estimated deficit is an improvement on the 2021-22 budget deficit of $16.6 million as the state begins to recover from the pandemic and the natural disasters.
The budget projects the NSW Government will return a surplus in just two years for the 2024-25 budget. The following year, Mr Kean said the Treasury estimated the surplus would be in excess of $1.4 billion.
The government will be reaping an additional $3.7 billion in extra tax revenue due to reforms, but interest rates on the government’s debt will cost NSW $500 million this year.
Despite the record billions of dollars in spending, Mr Kean denied the budget was a “cash splash” to win votes.
“We will be the envy of the country because of the policies we’ve outlined in this budget,” he said.