Reform is on the agenda in NSW after Treasurer Matt Kean handed down the 2022/23 budget, the last before the March state election when Liberal-Nationals will seek a rare fourth term.
"This budget is about reform, reform to support families and build a brighter future for everyone," Mr Kean said on Tuesday as he delivered his first budget.
Last year, then-treasurer Dominic Perrottet announced NSW was "back", shortly before the state again plunged into lockdown as the Delta variant of COVID-19 spread.
Now premier, Mr Perrottet said Tuesday's budget continued the work of the coalition and the three leaders who preceded him since 2011.
"With this budget, the NSW government sets out a transformational roadmap for the decade ahead," he said.
Mr Kean and Mr Perrottet sought to put their stamp on the state in the first budget in their respective roles.
The premier signed off on the first stage of a long-held plan to abolish stamp duty and the treasurer implemented policies "investing in the aspirations of women".
The centrepiece is a plan to spend up to $5 billion over the next decade to address "childcare deserts" and help women return to work.
Increasing women's workforce participation to equal men's would make the economy eight per cent larger by 2060.
"This is an economic opportunity we cannot ignore," Mr Kean said.
Mr Perrottet pledged to put families first as premier and the budget's expansion of parental leave for government workers, a $150 back-to-school voucher per child, with subsidies available for pre-school fees and other cost-of-living measures, such as toll rebates, free solar and energy-efficient appliance upgrades are expected to meet that pledge.
Opposition Leader Chris Minns said the budget was about re-election rather than reform.
"This budget is motivated by an election in March," he said on Tuesday.
"My real fear is if they get re-elected, we'll have an austerity budget straight after."
Mr Minns could prevent that if he can convince NSW voters to let Labor in from the cold after close to 12 years, a process he'll begin on Thursday when he delivers his budget reply speech.
Many of the larger spending items focus on growing the future economy.
"(The) budget is a 10-year blueprint for prosperity," Mr Kean said.
The government insists the present NSW economy is also doing well, however.
Despite the pandemic and natural disasters, the state retained a projected return to surplus in 2024/25.
The $601 million surplus will come from budget improvement measures over the next four years, including increased taxes on foreign investors and gambling, Mr Kean said.
Projected rises in GST revenue, mineral royalties, payroll and land taxes would also boost revenue.
Mr Minns said the projections contained several "completely heroic" assumptions.
Temporary payroll tax relief during the pandemic will end, returning to 5.45 per cent, but businesses in "future industries" will be offered grants and tax exemptions through the Future Economy Fund until July 2027.
Projected economic growth is 4.25 per cent over the next financial year.
The projected deficit for 2022/23 blew out to $11.3 billion, however, from $3.6 billion at the mid-year review in December.
A projected deficit of $2.8 billion for 2023/24 should be followed by the better than expected $601 million surplus in 2024/25 and a $1.4 billion surplus in 2025/26.
Business NSW chief executive Daniel Hunter said getting to the projected surplus won't be easy.
"That will take solid financial management considering the debt levels and the vast spending measures detailed in this budget," he said.
The payroll tax change from next month will force businesses to "contribute more than their fair share".
"This pressure adds to the rising inflation and energy costs and labour shortages faced by business," Mr Hunter added.
Australian Associated Press
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