The West

Power and water bills will jump by a third over the next four years, according to the Budget handed down today which also reveals State debt will hit $22b.

A five per cent rise in electricity prices will be followed by another five per cent in 2012-13. Then, after the next State election, households will be hit with two years of 12 per cent hikes.

Water bills will go up 8.5 per cent next year, with further increased over the following three years to boost bills by about 30 per cent.

Treasurer Christian Porter said the rises would be offset by a freeze on many other household fees, which would have the overall impact of increasing average household bills by $4 a week.

Delivering his first State Budget, Mr Porter highlighted the dangers of declining GST revenues, saying worst-case scenario modeling showed that WA would get just 33 cents in the dollar within four years.

"The pivotal decision has been whether, in the face of a collapse in GST revenue over coming years, do we as a State Government wind back our infrastructure investment program, or do we stay the course and continue to invest in the critical social and economic infrastructure that we require to prosper and continue growing," he told State Parliament.

He said the possibility of a revenue collapse would not deter the Government from pursuing a record infrastructure spend of $7.6b, which will include initiatives like installing air conditioners in every school but ignores funding for a new sports stadium, desalination plants, a refurbished Royal Perth Hospital.

A Budget surplus of $784m is expected this year, falling to $442m next year. In 2012-13 and 2013-14 surpluses of more than $750m are anticipated but in the final year considered in the Budget papers, 2014-15, a surplus of $471m will be handed down.

Debt is scheduled to hit more than $22b in 2014-15 but a higher GST income stream, which Mr Porter conceded was more likely than not, will see that drop to under $20b.

The cost of running the public service will have increased by 7.8 per cent by June 30, well above the target of around six per cent.

That expense growth is being driven in part by a $1 billion boost to the welfare sector, which includes an extra $604m over four years to the not for profit sector.

The West Australian

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