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More fudgeiting in National’s Budget

David

CLARK

Revenue Spokesperson
16 March 2014 MEDIA STATEMENT
More fudgeiting in National’s Budget

Buried in the Specific Fiscal Risks section of the Budget documents are expenses that should have been booked in the Budget - were they not a threat to the Government’s maiden surplus, says Labour’s Revenue spokesperson David Clark.

“The extension of artificially high ACC levies and dressing up transport spending as a loan were big fudges in an attempt to claim a credible surplus. But as more detail emerges, the picture looks even murkier.

“The Government has explicitly signalled that the KiwiSaver auto-enrolment scheme costing up to $290 million will not be booked as long as it remains a threat to its constructed surplus.

“Contrast National’s evasiveness on KiwiSaver auto-enrolment with Labour’s carefully costed universal scheme. National’s slight of hand should be exposed for what it is – a failure of leadership, with number-fudging that would make even the most hardened tax accountant blush.

“Add to this Treasury’s view that risks to $290 million worth of soft (non-commercial) loans to local councils and iwi may have been insufficiently accounted for in the main estimates.

“Budget blow-out risks associated with caregiver employment conditions are very real with separate disagreements yet to be settled over equal pay claims and understanding of the Minimum Wage Act.

“There is a strong hint that assumptions around outstanding student debt will soon be revised, wiping value off the Government’s books. While the datasets have changed, the policy and cost implications couldn’t be processed in time for the budget.

“Likewise, some changes signalled in the Vulnerable Children’s White Paper have been booked; other future costs ‘are still being developed’.

“Maybe the reason these fiscal risks are not fully accounted for in the main estimates is the threat they represent to the wafer thin surplus. No one wants one of those Monty Python’s Mr Creosote moments.

“How can these policies be implemented with current costs known and no proper estimation accounting for the future? They are deliberately refusing to put the puzzle pieces together. The Government should be pressed on why it didn’t see fit to put them together for Budget day.

“In truth, it is hard to get a finance minister to develop understanding sufficient to quantify future fiscal costs - when his surplus depends upon him not understanding them,” says David Clark.

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