No new taxes, but infrastructure spending up

Tasmanian Government commits to funding transport infrastructure projects and freezing taxes despite horror Budget

By Brad Gardner

The Tasmanian Government has committed to funding transport infrastructure projects and freezing taxes despite a horror Budget handed down by the State’s treasurer.

The Government faces a $117 million deficit next financial year, with the expectation of an $87.3 million deficit the following year.

In handing down the Budget last week, Treasurer Michael Aird said the State would lose more than $1.5 billion in revenue over the next four years, but this will not jeopardise infrastructure spending.

"Over the next four years, the Government, with the support of the Australian government, will invest $756 million in the Tasmanian road network," Aird says.

"We are also committed to working with the Australian government to improve Tasmania’s rail infrastructure, with a total investment of $197 million over the next four years."

Despite the massive loss in revenue, Aird says the Government will not increase taxes, amid predictions the unemployment rate will rise to 7 percent and Gross State Product will decline by three quarters of a percent.

However, businesses will be given a payroll tax rebate in return for creating new jobs between now and June 30, 2010.

"The rebate will be uncapped and available to any business that has a payroll tax liability," Aird says, adding that it will be payable so long as the job is maintained until June 30, 2011.

The scheme is expected to cost the Government $5 million and create 500 new jobs.

As part of the Government’s infrastructure investment, $79 million will be spent on the Brighton Transport Hub, with $164 million from the Federal Government bankrolling the Brighton Bypass.

"The new transport hub will have a dramatic effect on the movement of freight around Tasmania and result in increased efficiency and cost savings for Tasmanian businesses," Aird says.

Minister for Infrastructure Graeme Sturges says the Government’s planned $275 million road and rail investment will deliver more jobs and reduce the impact of the global financial crisis.

The Government will continue its $38 million replacement of rail sleepers, as well as upgrades to level crossings, bridges and the north-south line, which Pacific National intends stopping operations on.

Local councils will also be given an incentive to fund infrastructure upgrades, with Aird announcing the Local Government Infrastructure Assistance Program.

Under the scheme, the Government will meet the interest fees for all costs stemming from loans councils take to build local infrastructure.

But to take advantage of the program, Aird says new infrastructure projects must be built by private contractors.

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