Vic projects worth billions could face budget chop
More than $17 billion worth of Victorian government projects are on the chopping block in the upcoming state budget as the state looks at reining in record debt.
Victoria's independent Parliamentary Budget Office has identified 372 initiatives slated to lapse at the end of this financial year, unless extended by Treasurer Tim Pallas when he hands down his ninth budget on Tuesday.
The programs have been allocated $17.2b in taxpayer funding over the past four years and $6.4b in 2022/23 alone.
The calculations, requested by Opposition Leader John Pesutto and published on Sunday, are based on analysis of state budgets and updates since 2019/20.
The former jobs, precincts and regions department (67) and former health and human services department (63) have the most potentially lapsing initiatives, in part reflecting COVID-19 initiatives to help businesses and the health system through the crisis.
A $230.4 million COVID-related tutor learning program, $196.2m small and medium business pandemic package and $165.3m cladding rectification project are among those scheduled to lapse.
Others include a $153m gambling harm prevention program, $30m regional jobs and infrastructure fund and $5.3m specialist sexual assault services initiative.
The Parliamentary Budget Office said the Andrews government could qualitatively indicate these initiatives are ongoing but providing funding beyond this financial year would be inconsistent with their budget practices.
"It is difficult, often impossible, to determine whether an initiative announced in either of these budget updates with funding to 2022/23 would continue to receive funding beyond that year," it said in the 133-page report
"Some of these initiatives may have lapsing funding.
"Budget initiatives are subject to name and portfolio changes meaning they may not be easy to concord. It is difficult to track such changes to initiatives that are not headline or large programs."
Paying back Victoria's COVID-19 credit bill is a priority for this budget as the state's net debt and annual interest payments are forecast to grow to $165.9b and $7.32b respectively by mid-2026.
But shadow treasurer Brad Rowswell said the potential cuts to critical frontline services were coming at the worst possible time amid rising cost-of-living pressures.
The Andrews government, he said, should instead look to cut waste and stop spending more than revenue.
"More than $30 billion of waste for major projects is in the DNA of this government," Mr Rowswell told reporters.
In response to the report, a Victorian government spokesman said the budget will be delivered on Tuesday.
Mr Pallas is expected to detail a $31.5 billion COVID-19 debt repayment plan, which is likely to include both savings and new revenue measures, The Age reports.
Premier Daniel Andrews took aim at the Reserve Bank this month for providing advice to national cabinet during the pandemic that interest rates would not rise as governments borrowed to curb unemployment.
Health Minister Mary-Anne Thomas told reporters Victoria did the right thing by following the bank's advice, saving lives and livelihoods.
POTENTIALLY LAPSING VICTORIAN GOVERNMENT INITIATIVES IN 2022/23
Whole of government - 32 ($641m)
Department of Education and Training - 40 ($1.13b)
Former Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning - 40 ($984m)
Former Department of Health and Human Services - 63 ($1.58b)
Former Department of Jobs, Precincts and Regions - 67 ($780m)
Department of Justice and Community Safety - 36 ($411m)
Department of Premier and Cabinet - 34 ($116m)
Former Department of Transport - 30 ($613m)
Department of Treasury and Finance - 15 ($102m)
Parliament - 7 ($7m)
Court Services Victoria - 8 ($19m)