The WA Budget is back in the black, with Treasurer Ben Wyatt forecasting five successive surpluses on the back of surging iron ore prices, GST revenues and a tightening of the government’s purse strings.
Delivering his third budget today, Mr Wyatt forecast a surplus of $553 million for this financial year, and successive surpluses totalling nearly $9 billion for the next four years.
A surplus of $1.5 billion is forecast for next year.
This will be the first budget surplus in five years, and achieved two years ahead of schedule.
In December’s Mid-Year-Review, the government had forecast a budget deficit of $674 million for this year and a surplus of just over $1 billion for 2019-20.
Mr Wyatt said that even without surging iron ore prices and GST windfalls, such as a $1.2 billion top up payment from the commonwealth in 2019-20, the budget would have returned to surplus, saying the government’s tightening on government expenditure was a key factor.
Premier Mark McGowan, who upon winning government famously declared WA had the worst set of books since the Great Depression, today declared WA was “back on track”.
“The budget we present today is one filled with hope, opportunity and a vision for the future,” he told the media the Budget lock up.
“It is a budget that shows this government is about getting things done, delivering on what we promised and providing a path forward for our state.
“Western Australia is back on track.
“We are officially back in surplus – the first budget surplus in five years.
“And we have steady and sustainable surpluses for the next four years.”
But today’s Treasury forecasts show state debt remains high, forecast at $36 billion for this year and nearly $37 billion for next year before tapering off at $35.6 billion in 2022-23.
As reported by The Sunday Times last month, the McGowan Government has resisted calls for government fees and charges to be frozen this year, but delivered on a December promise to keep power hikes to the rate of inflation.
WA families will on average pay an extra $127 for their utility charges come July 1, taking their basket of fees and charges to $6395.
Power will go up by the rate of inflation, 1.75 per cent and water increases have also been kept to 2.5 per cent.
“Western Australians will be the first to benefit from our responsible financial management,” Mr McGowan said.
“With the lowest rise in fees and charges in 13 years.”
As was also reported by The Sunday Times earlier this year, Mr Wyatt has also resisted calls from unions to lift its controversial wages policy for public servants, which restricts pay rises to $1000 annually.
This is despite one of WA’s biggest unions, the Community and Public Sector Union/Civil Service Association seeking a 4.5 per cent pay rise for its 38,000 members over two years.
Union secretary Rikki Hendon has already warned that if the union didn’t get its way, the state could be hit by a wave of industrial trouble.
A defiant Mr Wyatt said today the wages policy would not be changed this term of government.
The sale of government asset sales like the TAB and part of Landgate are yet to be done.
Legislation to sell the TAB will go before the parliament soon, and Mr Wyatt said he hoped the sale of Landgate would be completed by the end of this year.
The government is expected to get about $300 million from the sale of the TAB, with Mr Wyatt saying 65 per cent of the proceeds from the sale of the TAB would go towards planning for a new hospital to replace King Edward Memorial.
The sale of Western Power remains off the agenda.
Mr Wyatt re-affirmed the government’s planned $4.1 billion expenditure on a new Perth rail system, Metronet, over the next four years.
As was already reported the government has decided to relax eligibility criteria for Keystart and the government will begin a $1.7 billion roads project in the northern and eastern suburbs later this year, thanks to state and commonwealth funding.