The Tribune has investigated the impacts for local people, business and organisations in the latest federal budget. There will also be more to follow in next Wednesday’s Tribune.
No money for Yass Valley infrastructure
Yass Valley Mayor Nic Carmody said there didn’t seem to be any particular funding geared toward the area’s infrastructure or local government which he said was “nothing new”.
He said the fact Yass was in a safe seat meant it was a challenge to get funding for projects like the Barton Highway upgrade.
The mayor said given that a budget surplus was announced for the next few years “it looks like it’s been pushed back to who knows when”.
“The last 12 months we’ve been lobbying quite hard,” Cr Carmody said.
He said there had been a “number of meetings and a lot of correspondence” with federal ministers but no promises had been made.
Federal Member for Hume, Alby Schultz, was equally non-plussed by the lack of funding for the Barton Highway.
He said the budget was a “major disappointment” for members of the Hume electorate.
“This year’s budget demonstrates no plan to build a stronger economy, repay debt or create secure jobs,” said Mr Schultz.
“One of the main items on the Hume wish list has always been the duplicating of the Barton Highway for which funding was promised by the Howard government at the 2007 election.
“Hume has missed out again…” he said.
The mayor also noted that incentives were being paid to individuals and small business to ease the burden of the carbon tax but local governments won’t be getting anything.
“In my opinion councils will be quite severely impacted by it,” Cr Carmody said.
He said those costs might end up having to be passed on to rate payers.
Road network funding – no more, no less
The federal government has extended its Roads to Recovery program, which funds a significant chunk of the Yass Valley’s road improvements.
The program was scheduled to finish in June 2014 but in budget announcements was extended to 2019 at its current rate.
“Council has been actively lobbying the federal government for the program to be extended indefinitely as it provides funding which is critical to the sustainability of council’s road network,” council’s director of operations Simon Cassidy said.
He said council receives around $580,000 per year from the program for local roads.
The federal government has also upped its Black Spot program which pays for upgrades to accident prone roads.
Mr Cassidy said council regularly submits applications under this program and has been successful in receiving some funds in the past for Murrumbateman Road.
“It is a very competitive program with specific assessment criteria that need to be met in order to obtain funding,” Mr Cassidy said.
He said the criteria generally relate to the number, type, and severity of accidents at a given location.
“Once applications open we will assess whether there are any projects that fit within the funding criteria but it is unlikely that we would have projects that rank high enough to get any funding,” the director said.
The budget provided an extra $714 million over four years to allow small businesses to "carry back" their losses up to $1 million, allowing them to receive a refund from taxes paid in the previous year. But the anticipated one per cent company tax cut didn't materialise and was instead redirected to households.
Small business owner Hansie Armour of Abbey Footwear said it felt like a positive short-term budget but it had failed to address longer term needs. It was too inconsistent and better long-term planning was needed.
"As a business person, one hesitates to make a comment [about the budget] because of the short-term vision by our political leaders to ensure their re-election," she said.
She believed it would promote immediate spending but the next 12 months would become particularly tight before the predictable spending boost as a pre-election sweetener.
"That's how I see it as a retailer, and I will be making adjustments accordingly.
"It's a very cleverly orchestrated budget!"
Families and low income earners
Families and welfare recipients appeared to be winners in the budget, with an additional $1.8 million allocated to Family Tax Benefit Part A, and tax cuts for those earning under $80,000. The tax-free threshold will be tripled to $18,200 as part of the government's carbon tax scheme. An extra $2.1 billion will be spent over five years on a means-tested Schoolkids Bonus.
Murrumbateman mother Donna Butler said the budget appeared to put more money back into her pocket as a mum and a small business owner.
"The thing that stands out as a positive instantly for me, of course, is the education payment." She has four school-aged children, including one in high school.
"[Receiving the] payment without having to keep receipts is of great help to us. Keeping receipts was a difficult thing to do when you have so many children to buy for on a continual basis.
"Not knowing what was covered meant there was a mountain of receipts to go through at tax time.
"I receive Family Tax Benefit A. Although the one-off payments are welcome, I'm not sure how it would actually help. I don't really see a benefit in that."
She said the childcare benefit was always a welcome increase in savings to the family.
"As a small business owner, the new tax breaks are great for me. I guess all in all, as a family and as a small business owner, the new budget puts more money into our pockets each week."
Mature-age workers, superannuation and retirees
The government will phase out the mature age worker tax offset designed to increase participation in the workforce, and reform offsets for dependents. A $1000 payment will be given to companies for each worker aged over 50 that they hire for at least three months. The budget proposes tighter superannuation concessions in an effort to save $2.4 billion over four years. However, the superannuation guarantee rate will rise to 12 per cent.
Murrumbateman retiree Meryl Hunter said she believed the budget was "finance done with smoke and mirrors".
"[It's] just moving money from one place to another and leaving some people out altogether. I'm sad that so many will lose their jobs but agree that medical benefits should be means-tested."
She was also disappointed with the dental scheme.
"I'm also disappointed that... arts in general are to suffer and the interest break on savings has been scrapped. Someone in my position relies on interest."
In this week’s budget is $1 billion over four years for the rollout of the National Disability Insurance Scheme.
“We have been waiting a long, long time for an insurance disability scheme,” local woman Jane Baker said. Ms Baker’s daughter Mary has Down syndrome and Jane is well known in the area for her service to people with a disability.
“It’s basically a case of waiting to see how it is organised and whether or not it will be tied up with red tape,” she said.
The money will go toward care and support for people with a disability, an information technology system, disability assessment and research, among other things.
Ms Baker said the scheme would be available for people who weren’t born with their disability but instead were part of an accident.
She said it would hopefully make the next step easier along the “long road of social recognition” for people with a disability.
“I’m very happy. It’s something that this particular community has needed for a long, long time,” she said.