$2.4bn wage bill

THE Hodgman government’s wages bill has hit $2.4 billion for the state’s 25,000 public servants – or almost half the state budget.

Treasurer Peter Gutwein yesterday warned of voluntary redundancies being offered in next Thursday’s budget, to save about $200 million over four years. He ruled out sackings.

He flagged budget deficits, at least for the next six years.

He said the wages bill, now costing on average $90,000 for each public servant plus on-costs, had grown by 86 per cent since 2003-04, and even the former government factored in 1000 job losses in the forward estimates.

‘‘It is one of the reasons why I have talked about a (12-month) wages pause,’’ Mr Gutwein said.

‘‘It would save more than 500 of those 1000 jobs. We will save as many as we can.

‘‘The pay pause could save up to $50 million a year, or $200 million over the forward estimates and 500 jobs,’’ he said.

The former government denies that it factored in the job cuts, but Mr Gutwein said this was Treasury’s advice to the new government.

Mr Gutwein said yesterday that the government was still faced with saving at least 1000 public sector jobs that the previous government had targeted.

He flagged several measures in the budget.

●Keeping all election commitments, costing $400 million over four years.

●A budget surplus in six years. The initial forecast was no surplus for 10 years.

●$76 million over four years for elective surgery.

●$8 million over four years for to establish a Co-ordinator-General’s office in Launceston with up to 10 staff, to process major statewide developments.

●$50 million for a dual carriageway between Breadalbane and Perth. This may include future plans for bypassing Perth.

●Funds for extending high schools to years 11 and 12.

●No new taxes or charges. No increases in taxes and charges. No major asset sales of any kind.

Mr Gutwein said the budget would be a responsible balance sheet without ‘‘shocking’’ the state’s economy.

‘‘We are meeting our commitments, fixing the budget mess and laying the groundwork for the future,’’ he said.

‘‘When we came to government the (Treasury) advice we received was that the budget was unsustainable and there would be no surplus for a decade.

‘‘We should be able to return to a surplus in six years,’’ he said.

‘‘We are committed to upgrade the Midland Highway as a dual carriageway progressively over time.’’

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