Fuel subsidy scrapped, tolls go up in mini-budget

NSW Government will jack up tolls and cut fuel subsidies and infrastructure investment to reduce budget deficit

By Brad Gardner

The NSW Government will introduce congestion charges and cut fuel subsidies and infrastructure investment to reduce an almost $1 billion budget deficit.

In handing down a mini-budget today, Treasurer Eric Roozendaal announced time-of-day charges for the Harbour Bridge and Tunnel tolls.

Motorists will be hit with a $4 charge in peak periods and $2.50 in off-peak times. This is forecast to generate $12 million in revenue in 2011-12.

"The Sydney Harbour Bridge and the Sydney Harbour Tunnel will become the first motorways in Australia to switch to time-of-day tolling," Roozendaal says.

"This means motorists who come into the city outside the peaks will pay less than peak users."

The big savings, however, will come from the Government’s decision to defer the State’s contribution to jointly funded Pacific Highway projects at Banora Point and Tintenbar to Ewingsdale, and to defer two other road upgrades.

This is forecast to return $165 million to government coffers, while changes to the fuel subsidy will generate $1.7 million.

The Government has also decided to scrap the 1.2 cent subsidy for fuel transported by train across the Blue Mountains.

However, Roozendaal has committed to the Port Botany expansion as well as the $156 million Victoria Road upgrade.

But as a result of the recent mid-year economic review released by the Rudd Government, Roozendaal says NSW will receive $722 million less GST revenue.

"These are the reasons why the $268 million surplus previously forecast has been revised to an expected deficit of $917 million this financial year," he says.

Roozendaal says based on the cuts the Government will save $3.3 billion while the measures announced will raise $3.6 billion.

The $1.9 billion business tax cuts remain, with the treasurer announcing targeted expenditure of $850 million.

"With these measures we expect the budget to return to a surplus of $138 million next year rising to a surplus of $573 million in 2010-11 and $900 million in 2011-12," he says.

The budget sets aside funds to boost public transport, with Roozendaal announcing increased expenditure to fast-track extra buses.

However, a number of rail projects have been left in limbo. The North West Metro project has been deferred alongside the development of the Richmond line.

The proposed Carlingford duplication and the Sydenham to Erskineville projects have also been scrapped. But the decision, alongside the announcement of clearway projects, will cost the Government $37,000 by 2011-12.

Dredging and development works at the Newcastle Port Corporation will also be deferred, with the decision to stop work at the Mayfield berths expected to generate $5 million in savings.

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