State spending is not enough

Article image - State spending is not enough

Massive infrastructure investment will boost Victorian jobs and productivity, but despite its budget surplus the Government has failed to restore equitable funding for core community services co-funded with councils according to Councillor Bill McArthur, President of the Municipal Association of Victoria (MAV).

 Cr McArthur said the State Budget showed Victoria was in a strong financial position and it was pleasing that significant funding had been committed for transport, schools, sporting and early childhood infrastructure.

 “However, there’s a worrying budget double standard at play. The Government reaped 15 percent growth in property taxes over the past year while imposing a 2.5 percent cap on council rates, leaving ratepayers to fund the State’s shortfalls for maternal and child health, school crossings and public libraries.

 On the positive side, Cr McArthur noted increased investment in maternal and child health – a step towards restoring 50:50 funding.

 “Councils will also welcome the strong investment in public transport, together with $10 million for early learning centres in growth areas, a $50 million Growing Suburbs fund, $22.4 million in capital funding for public libraries and continued investment in sporting facilities.

 “But the budget doesn’t deal with the State’s massive under-investment in recurrent operational funding for public libraries. Ratepayers continue to shoulder an unfair 82 percent of the financial burden, while the State’s contribution has dwindled from 50 percent to just 18 percent.

 “We are seeking formal agreements with the State for each community service that is delivered in partnership with councils. As a matter of principle, local government investment should only continue as long as the Government maintains its matched funding contribution.

“It is also disappointing that $700 million secured for regional Victoria from the Port of Melbourne lease appears to ignore funding for rural and regional local roads."

 The MAV has argued for reinstatement of the Country Roads and Bridges fund. Rural shires with limited revenue, small populations and extensive road networks are further burdened under the rate cap.

“The State Budget is a win for transport infrastructure but leaves councils and ratepayers to shoulder the burden of decades of under-investment by Victorian governments into core community services.”