Budget: Force for growth or status quo

By Marianne Kelly

A $6.5 billion Family Incomes Package announced in the recent Budget 2017 is targeted at helping Kiwis struggling with living costs, designed to lift those families’ incomes.

The package, to be implemented over four years, includes tax cuts, lifting the threshold in the two bottom tax bands from $14,000 to $20,000 and from $48,000 to $52,000; increased payments for those in the Working for Families programme, along with a boost to the accommodation supplement.

Botany MP Jami-Lee Ross says the Government’s improved books and an expected average three per cent economic growth over the next five years is delivering more jobs and higher wages for New Zealanders.

“The average annual wage is expected to reach $64,300 by 2021,” he says. “Well over 200,000 jobs have been created in the last three years and a further 215,000 jobs are expected over the next four years.”

The package, he says, will help hard-working families get ahead, lifting the incomes of 1.3 million families by an average of $26 a week. It’s expected to lift 20,000 families above the threshold for severe housing stress, and reduce the number of children living in families receiving less than half the median income by about 50,000.

“Budget 2017 shares the benefits of growth by improving public services, investing in the infrastructure needed for a growing country, reducing debt and lifting incomes.”

However Julie Zhu, Botany Greens, says the Budget indicates an endorsement of the status quo, “which means more families will continue to be left behind and our environment will continue to suffer”.

“There are no real solutions to address the housing crisis, or our crippling suicide numbers, or climate change, or the growing inequality between the haves and have nots.”

She’s critical of a “paltry” $4 million increase in funding to stop climate change, “while there is also a $300 million increase in subsidies for polluters”.

Pakuranga Labour candidate Barry Kirker says the Budget lacks any vision for New Zealand and doesn’t address the country’s core problems.

The Pakuranga-based psychologist says the provision of mental health services is in crisis.
“All too often resources that could be targeted to community-based early intervention are absorbed by expensive, mostly ineffective crisis management services and this is happening with the provision of other services throughout the country,” he says.

“People have concerns about the inadequate service for Aged Care and the corporate focus and profiteering that that’s occurring in private facilities, as well as the crisis around housing affordability.”

The Family Incomes Package is about sharing the dividends of a strong economy with hard-working New Zealanders, says Hunua MP Andrew Bayly.

Overall 1.34 million families will, on average, be better off by $26 a week, as well as 750,000 superannuitants and 41,000 students.

“Responsible economic management means we are in an excellent position to pay down debt, invest more in vital infrastructure and social services, and help Kiwi families retain more of their income every week,” Mr Bayly says.