NSW prepares budget for families, women

·3-min read

Support for families, women and home buyers will be the key focus of this year's NSW budget as the coalition government gears up for the next election.

The budget, to be handed down on Tuesday, will attempt to fix failures of the past, address current challenges and leave NSW poised to grow after the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.

In addition to being the final budget before the March 2023 election, it's also Treasurer Matt Kean's first after taking over from Premier Dominic Perrottet in October.

Mr Perrottet pledged to be "a family premier, focusing on how we can make life better for working families" when he replaced Gladys Berejiklian.

To that end, the bulk of Tuesday's $30 billion-plus of budget measures will include commitments aimed at families in a climate of rising living costs and high inflation.

Billions have been set aside for subsidies for parents with children attending preschool and to provide universal pre-kindergarten for all NSW children by 2030.

"But this budget is not just about families. It's about a brighter future for NSW," Mr Kean said on Friday.

The premier and treasurer have tried to balance other budget priorities with demands for better pay and conditions from workers including nurses and teachers.

However, a planned lift to a public sector cap on wages and promises to hire more staff have not been enough to quell industrial action.

A contributing factor to the calls for a pay increase is housing affordability and the government has promised that up to 6000 nurses, teachers and police could soon get help to buy their own home under a shared equity scheme.

This would see the government contributing to the price of a home up to $950,000 in Sydney and some regional centres along the coast, and up to $600,000 in other regions.

The scheme, to be trialled over two years, will also be open to single parents and single people aged 50 or older.

The construction industry and property developers could also benefit from the scheme, which will provide up to 40 per cent for a new property or 30 per cent for an existing home.

Mr Perrottet also wants to continue a reformist agenda after more than a decade of coalition government in NSW.

This could see movement in the budget on his long-held plan to replace property stamp duty with a land tax system.

Mr Kean's first budget will also focus on unlocking women's economic potential and promoting gender equity.

An investment of $775 million over the next four years - which could grow to $5 billion over the next decade - will aim to address "childcare deserts" where families struggle to find or afford childcare.

It will involve the establishment of a fund to encourage private childcare operators to expand to areas where their services are needed, not just where they are most profitable.

Mr Kean said the program could grow the economy by more than $17 billion by making it easier for more of the state's women to return to work after having children.

Money has also been set aside for CCTV and better lighting in areas women don't feel safe at night and a new task force at SafeWork NSW to combat workplace harassment.

December's half-year budget review projected net debt to reach $58.1 billion in June, growing to $103 billion in 2024/25.

In both cases, the forecasts were revised down from higher projections in the 2021/22 budget thanks to extra cash from the sale of WestConnex.

NSW has a triple-A credit rating from global firms Fitch and Moody's, while S&P Global downgraded the state to double-A plus in 2020 due to increased debt.

The budget update also forecast a deficit of $3.6 billion in 2022/23 and a deficit of $1.3 billion in 2023/24 ahead of a $449 million surplus in 2024/25. It predicted a deficit of almost $20 billion in the current financial year.

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