Finance Minister Bill English delivers his eighth Budget today and in typical fashion has been tight-lipped about its contents. Based on the hints he has dropped and the problems the Government is facing, this is what to look for.
1. HEALTH: Prime Minister John Key and English have pointed to health as one area that has come under strain from higher than expected population growth. The Government has topped up its new spending allowance from $1 billion by bringing forward some of the $2.5 million from next year. A newsletter from Key indicated that gave the Government $1.6 billion this year. Health campaigners claim at least $700 million is needed for health to stand still, although Key has disputed that. Other than a Pharmac announcement, very few pre-Budget announcements have been made in this area so expect it to feature high in the Budget. Some are also tipping an extension of the bowel screening programme. Education will also get a top up.
2. AUCKLAND: The Budget is expected to contain some further measures to try to release the pressure on Auckland's housing market. English has ramped up the pressure on Auckland Council to play its part in opening up land. Look for something around infrastructure funding to help with new greenfields' developments in Auckland.
3. HOUSING: Key has ruled out further direct assistance for first home buyers and measures aimed at homelessness have already been announced. But Social Housing Minister Paula Bennett has a social housing announcement coming and Housing Minister Nick Smith will have another funding announcement for buying out more Crown land in Auckland for housing.
4. TAXES AND SAVINGS: English has ruled out income tax cuts this year - but has not ruled out other tax changes. KiwiSaver changes could also feature and a revised date for contributions to the Super Fund to begin.
5. SURPLUS: English has already confirmed that healthy surpluses lie ahead and described this as a "strong" Budget. National is still eyeing up income tax cuts after 2017, but English has also set a target of repaying Government debt down to 20 per cent of GDP by 2020.
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