Spending on infrastructure projects to boost jobs will be the feature of the South Australian budget, which will also reveal a near $2.6 billion COVID-19 enforced deficit.
Treasurer Rob Lucas will on Nov 10 hand down the delayed financial blueprint, which has been hit hard by coronavirus spending and a big shortfall in GST receipts.
The deficit for 2020/21 is expected to come in at $2.59 billion after forecasts that GST returns will fall by as much as $1.3 billion.
It is tipped to fall to $1.42 billion in 2021/22 and to $435 million in 2022/23 before returning to a $406 million surplus the following year.
Lucas said the heavy spending was good news for workers and businesses, and would protect as many jobs as possible.
“If we went down the path of battening down the hatches and minimising the spending, that would cause very significant damage to the economy and wouldn’t allow us to save as many jobs or businesses as we could or should,” Lucas told the Adelaide Advertiser.
Premier Steven Marshall earlier described this year’s budget as the most important in the state’s history as his government plotted a course for economic recovery post the coronavirus pandemic.
Marshall said South Australia had done extraordinarily well in managing the health crisis and must now deliver in terms of the economic crisis.
“I genuinely think this is the most important budget in the history of South Australia,” the premier said.
“It’s all about creating jobs and backing business. It’s all about building what matters.
“There will be an increase in debt in South Australia but most importantly there will be a massive increase in employment in our state and that’s what we need at the moment.”
The government has already flagged some initiatives including doubling the coronavirus stimulus package for infrastructure and other projects to $2 billion.
It has also announced the second round of $10,000 cash grants to small businesses, a $35 million spend on community sports facilities and an extra $15 million for mental health support.
But Labor leader Peter Malinauskas said the government must use the budget to freeze taxes and charges.
Tim Dornin in Adelaide