The Queensland state budget is being hailed as welcome news for the state’s 77 councils, with the local government peak applauding the Treasurer’s million-dollar investment in regions but calling for more infrastructure funding.
The Palaszczuk Government’s 2019-20 Budget, released on Tuesday, includes substantial infrastructure commitments to regional communities in a bid to stimulate job growth.
The centrepiece of the budget is an $885 million payroll tax initiative for businesses which is aimed at promoting job growth. It also includes increased spending on social portfolios and a record infrastructure splash.
The budget features almost $13 billion in capital works programs to support 40,500 jobs across Queensland, with 25,500 of these jobs in regions.
Record investment in emergency services and $38 million for disaster resilience and environmental protections are other key features of the budget.
The budget shows a net operating surplus of $841 million in 2018-19, with $189 million predicted in 2019-20, and recorded 97,700 new jobs in 2017-18. However Treasurer Jackie Trad also prompted criticism about the state’s mounting debt after signalling plans to borrow $78.72 billion to fund its massive infrastructure pipeline.
LGAQ chief executive Greg Hallam said the budget’s focus on providing job opportunities in regional Queensland through programs like Works for Queensland program, payroll tax relief for regional small businesses and more funding for community and tourism infrastructure was welcome news.
“This is a solid Budget that will go some way to ensuring regional communities in Queensland continue to grow,” he said.
The Budget also saw substantial funding to frontline emergency services, including a record $2.4 billion Police operating budget and $740 million to Queensland Fire and Emergency Services.
Sustainability and environmental protection were also a feature of the Budget, with $330 million to the Great Barrier Reef and $5 million to waste reforms and $250 million to renewable energy generation.
Mr Hallam applauded the state’s investment in disaster mitigation.
“Councils stand with the State in calling for more commitment from the Federal Government to disaster mitigation funding,” he said.
“It makes no sense to replace a bride or other asset destroyed by flood with new infrastructure that will be washed away in the next flood.”
Fast-track regional infrastructure: LGAQ
But tough market conditions including the ongoing effects of natural disasters and a water infrastructure challenge warrant more funding in local infrastructure, according to Mr Hallam.
“However, with the economy far from powering along, it remains tough in those communities and the LGAQ will be looking to this government to continue to do its bit to support the State’s heartland,” he said.
“Further regional infrastructure pump priming may be required in the mid-term review or the next State Budget if the national economy continues to weaken.”
A shortfall in water supply and treatment facilities presents another substantial challenge for communities, Mr Hallam says.
“The LGAQ will want to work with the State to ensure access to safe, reliable and affordable water for all Queenslanders, regardless of where they live.”
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