10 things we learnt from the NSW Budget
For the first time in over a decade a Labor government has delivered a Budget in New South Wales, with Treasurer Daniel Mookhey handing down the 2023-24 state Budget to parliament on Tuesday.
In his speech, the treasurer was eager to emphasise Labor's desire for more public investment and less privatisation while also acknowledging the challenge that inflation continues to pose for the state.
"Our strategy is to provide immediate relief to help alleviate the pain of high housing costs, electricity bills and tolls, but to pair these measures with long-term change - private sector reform matched with public sector innovation and targeting the factors responsible for inflicting these pains in the first place."
So what can New South Wales residents expect in the way of cost-of-living support, and what were the other major takeaways from the Budget?
1. What is the economic outlook for NSW?
First and foremost, New South Wales Treasury is projecting that the Budget deficit will hit $7.8 billion this financial year before returning to a relatively small surplus in the three financial years to follow.
The treasurer also noted that, by June 2026, gross debt is forecast to be $14.8 billion lower than it would have been under the former government, and that net debt is expected to be $10.5 billion lower.
2. Are NSW public sector workers getting a pay rise?
Chief among the treasurer's Budget talking points was the government's decision to remove the existing wage cap for public sector workers in New South Wales. That includes frontline workers like firefighters, nurses, paramedics and police officers - 400,000 of whom will receive a 4.5% pay increase.
The government also announced that it will be putting $121.9 million over five years towards attracting people to the healthcare profession specifically, with scholarships of $4000 each year for eligible new students and one-off payments of $8,000 for existing students.
3. Which NSW hospitals will be upgraded?
Elsewhere on the healthcare front, the government has allocated $13.8 billion over four years towards building and upgrading hospitals and other health facilities, including $1.3 billion to rebuild Bankstown Hospital, $550 million to expand Fairfield Hospital and $538 million for an upgrade to the Albury Wodonga Regional Hospital.
500 new paramedics are also set to be recruited across regional New South Wales at a cost of $438.6 million over four years to meet shortfalls, while parking at regional and rural hospitals is set to be made free for all patients, staff and visitors.
4. Was social housing included in the NSW Budget?
Housing was also a major focus for the government in the Budget, with Mookhey acknowledging that the state is in the midst of a housing crisis - though one which can't be solved overnight.
In terms of spending, the government unveiled a $2.2 billion housing and infrastructure package of which the bulk will go towards delivering the likes of roads, schools, parks and other infrastructure around new developments. $300 million will also be put towards building thousands of new homes through Landcom - 30% of which has been promised to be affordable housing.
The government will also dedicate $60 million for two build-to-rent development schemes on the South Coast and in the Northern Rivers which it hopes will deliver 100 new dwellings over five years.
In response to the Budget, a number of advocacy groups have made it clear that the spending is nowhere near what's needed to address the state's housing affordability issues though.
5. What was in the State Budget for commuters?
Drivers in Sydney are set to benefit from the Budget courtesy of a new $60 weekly cap on tolls which will kick in from January 1 next year. The government says that the cap, which comes in addition to existing toll relief schemes, could benefit over 700,000 drivers.
Heavy vehicle divers who use the M5 East and the M8 will also benefit from a reduction in the existing toll multiplier on those motorways which is set to fall from three times to two times.
6. Why were EV rebates slashed?
The Budget provided a mixed bag for prospective electric vehicle (EV) buyers, with the government announcing that the existing $3000 electric vehicle rebate and stamp duty refund will cease from January 1 next year - a move which is expected to save $527 million.
Some of that money ($263 million) will instead be directed towards building up EV infrastructure, like charging stations, across the state which the government says will help support electric vehicle growth.
7. Were electricity bill rebates mentioned in the NSW Budget?
On the cost-of-living front, a number of households will receive more financial support for their power bills. From July 1, 2024, the Family Energy Rebate and the Seniors Energy Rebate are set to rise by $250 and the Low-Income Household Rebate and Medical Energy Rebate by $350.
The government says that these increases will be in addition to the energy bill support already being rolled out as part of the National Energy Bill Relief scheme.
8. What was in the State Budget for families with young children?
Up to 64,000 families with 3-year-olds attending long daycare preschool programs will be eligible for $500 in fee relief each year under a new initiative outlined in the Budget which the government says will help more children access early education and go some way to easing the cost-of-living burden.
A large number of families are set to miss out on Active and Creative Kids vouchers starting next year though. Rather than being available to all families, the vouchers, which are issued to help parents pay for various sport and creative activities, will be means-tested from February.
9. What is the new royalty rate for coal?
Perhaps with an eye on the bumper royalties recently raked in by the Queensland government which helped it to deliver a $12 billion Budget surplus, the Labor government in New South Wales has announced that it will increase coal royalties by 2.6 percentage points from July 1, 2024.
The government expects that the move will help add $2.7 billion to the Budget.
10. What was in the NSW Budget for koala protection?
One of the more unusual beneficiaries of the state Budget are koalas, as the government has committed $172 million in funding towards a number of initiatives aimed at safeguarding koalas and their habitat.
$80 million will go towards establishing the Great Koala National Park in the Coffs Harbour region, while a further $88 million has been budgeted over four years to protect koala habitats in areas around Sydney.
Get stories like this in our newsletters.