Victoria’s new Labor state government has handed down its first budget, containing long-term plans to expand infrastructure and a focus on education.
Premier Daniel Andrews and Treasurer Tim Pallas announced plans for $22 billion of infrastructure projects over the next four years, these projects expected to create 100,000 jobs.
While public transport gets the lion’s share, the state government has included $2.4 billion over four years for its promised level rail-crossing removal program.
Fifty of the state’s level crossings are scheduled to be gone by 2023, but the Treasurer conceded only four of those are likely to be completed before the next state budget is due.
Beyond 2015/16, the crossings are scheduled to disappear at the rate of around eight per year.
Other road projects include upgrades for the Western Ring Road, Chandler Highway and Western Highways, along with duplication plans for the Princes Highway both east and west of Melbourne.
There’s also a $146 million safety program for young drivers and an $86 million regional road maintenance program.
Despite uncertainty in the automotive industry and others, the Labor state government predicts unemployment to fall to 5.75 percent between now and 2018/19.
Ford has two major plants in Victoria while Holden and Toyota have one each, and all four will be closed by the end of 2017 forcing thousands to seek new employment.
A Jobs And Investment Panel also forms part of this year’s budget, which has been funded to the tune of $508 million and aims to create 100,000 jobs in four years.
But the Club expressed disappointment that the Shepparton Bypass and Metropolitan Ring Road were not included in the government’s plans.
As per the party’s election promises from last year, public transport features heavily in the budget spending plans with $1.5 billion set aside for the Melbourne Metro rail project.
The Metro project includes five new CBD stations and a tunnel under Swanston Street, and will be complemented by a $2 billion spend spread over a decade for new trams and trains in both Melbourne and rural centres.
A further $50 million will be spent on a trial of 24-hour public transport on weekends.
The promised $600 million for the Mernda rail line extension however has not been forthcoming, with just $9 million allocated instead throughout 2015/16 to a feasibility study.
TAFE students should benefit from a $350 million boost, some of which will go to reopening campuses that are currently sitting dormant.
The bulk of the rest of budget spending will go to schools and hospitals, and the government predicts a $1.2 billion surplus for the 2015/16 year.
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