NSW facing budget deficit of about $374m

THE New South Wales government is selling the Port of Newcastle to raise more than $700 million - some of which will be used to build a light rail through the city.

Treasurer Mike Baird has announced a deficit of about $374 million, compared with estimates of $824 million in last year's budget.

He estimated the budget for 2013-14 to be a smaller deficit of about $329 million.

In other key State Budget announcements:


Local Government and Infrastructure

THERE was little in the budget for North Coast councils but more than $31.5 million is still up for grabs for region's struggling to tackle infrastructure backlogs.

Local Government Minister Don Page urged councils to apply for loans through the Infrastructure Renewal Scheme, which still has unallocated money in the bank.

The scheme has already unlocked $394 million worth of local infrastructure and will fund a $7.3 million new runway overlay at Ballina's Byron Gateway Airport next year.

Mr Page said councils needed to "seriously consider debt as a way of funding infrastructure".

A third round of LIRS loans will be offered later this year.


Social Services

BREAKING the cycle of disadvantage is a key focus of new social benefit bonds unveiled in the New South Wales budget.

The government aims to use the bonds to encourage private firms to invest in social services for vulnerable people.

Up to $1 million was set aside in 2013-14 for a support program for foster children to be returned to their families and prevent children entering care in the first place.

A further $5.75 will be provided for intensive family support services to help keep at-risk families together.

Supporting the changes, the state government will add $3 million for domestic violence prevention, including men's telephone counselling services.


Small Business

AS public sector workers were put on notice, small business owners were given a welcome reprieve.

Treasurer Mike Baird announced the payroll tax threshold would be cut from $689,000 to $750,000 in 2013-14, before the government moved in coming years to index the tax.

Under the Jobs Action Plan, payroll rebates will also be increased from $4000 to $5000 in another move to placate the small business community.

Mr Baird said the overall benefit of the payroll tax and rebate changes would see 1300 small businesses removed altogether from paying the tax by 2014-15.

Australian Industry Group Director Mark Goodsell said the budget made "good progress on a broad front" but did not deal with "one of the biggest challenges facing NSW" - the projected shortage of domestic gas.

He said the government needed to act quickly to establish where supplies could be secured.

He welcomed the steps the government had had taken to reduce the cost of doing business in NSW and said a "sound fiscal management" approach had been taken in delivering a budget which contained expenditure growth while growing infrastructure.

"The two crucial trends we are seeing from this Government are fiscal discipline in controlling expenses growth particularly the public sector payroll, and a sensible attitude to recycling capital through the sale or long term lease of assets to free up funds for new infrastructure," Mr Goodsell said.

"High quality infrastructure supports industry growth and creates the potential for substantial flow-on effects for businesses in the State's manufacturing, services and construction sectors."



THE lion's share of $300 million to fast-track housing in New South Wales will go to Sydney and the Hunter region, while the 2013 State Budget is a mixed bag for prospective first home owners.

Under the government's housing acceleration fund, $141 million will help provide infrastructure to develop up to 42,900 new homes in the capital and Hunter.

However, the budget also extends the $15,000 first home owners grant for another two years, out to 2016, after a 60% rise in grants provided in the first few months of 2013 compared with 2012.

There will also be $99 million for councils to fund the gap between developer contributions and the real cost of building infrastructure for new housing areas.

A further $20 million will also go to a new planning system to help boost housing supply across the state.



MORE than $10 billion will be spent on primary and secondary schools across New South Wales next financial year, including $320 million for school maintenance.

While the State Budget shows Gonski funding will begin to flow next financial year, it will not reach the promised total spend of more than $9000 per primary school student until 2019.

The vocational education sector will get $2.3 billion for TAFEs and other registered training organisations, while $301 million will be spent on early childhood education including "a focus on universal access" to pre-school.

While no individual projects were promised for the North Coast regions, the government will spend $353 million across 22 major building projects, three new schools and other school infrastructure projects.



NEARLY $9 million will be spent on the next stage of upgrades to Lismore Base Hospital, as part of the New South Wales Government health budget unveiled yesterday.

Funds for the hospital redevelopment would be handed out in 2013-14 in a bid to complete the Stage 3A works by 2017, with the total project costing just over $80 million.

A further $1.9 million will also go to an interim upgrade of the Lismore Base Hospital emergency department.

Works on a new $5.5 million community health centre at Yamba will also start this year, with $2.48 million allocated to begin construction in 2013 with a view to completion in 2015.

Planning for a new hospital at Byron Bay will also get under way this year, with $500,000 for the initial works, despite no money for the actual construction.


Emergency services

THE state's police force was once again the big budget winner with millions allocated to new stations and a record number of recruits.

Keeping in line with an election commitment to bring the force's strength to 16,665 by 2015, $192 million of this year's budget will fund the training of another 489 officers.

More than $45,000 will help build nine stations, $16.1 million will replace the PolAir5 helicopter, $700,000 will fund enhanced DNA testing and $4.5 million is in the Crime Commission's capital works account.

In the $53.5 million to be spent over five years on emergency service equipment, $4.9 million will come from this budget.

A further $7.6 million will be used to replace 7000 fire-fighting helmets and rural firies will be given $35 million to reduce fire hazards in country NSW.



SOME householders will get a reprieve from power price rises, with the 2013 State Budget handing out $247 million to help eligible residents reduce the impacts of electricity costs.

Released a day after the IPART outlined further cuts to power prices in coming years, the budget brought some good news for those struggling under the pressure of rising power bills.

However, the budget did not outline specifically which residents would be eligible for the government payments, or which regions were able to apply.

Nearly $70 million will also be spent to help attract investment and to develop a regional industries investment fund to "drive economic growth in regional areas and complement the Jobs Action Plan".

An extra $8.5 million will also be spent, or $28 million over four years, to expand the New Frontiers pre-exploration data to attract new resources exploration around the state.

While the government is spending to attract the miners, Premier Barry O'Farrell will also personally oversee some $138 million for the Environmental Protection Authority to help implement waste reforms and regulate the resources industry.

A further $103 million will be spent on public parklands, gardens and community spaces while the Environmental Trust will get $82 million for local environmental protection and support programs.

Coastal councils who have been flooded in recent times will also share in $23 million to prepare and implement coastal and floodplain management plans and works to restore coastal environments.

The budget also outlined $19 million for research and development of low emissions technology.

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