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Budget surplus: Do the right thing

The Government has tabled tax cuts after recently announcing that it’s saved $1.8 billion over the past year, offering a taste of what will be on offer come election time; a smooth move from Bill Silver-Tongue English.

Nice Bill. Don’t suppose you asked the general public what they think the money should be spent on? Have you gone out to families who are barely scraping by on the lowest incomes to ask them what they think about tax cuts?

But there will be no polls or expensive referendums for this particular, greatly important, issue. Redistribution of wealth among the wealthy seems to be a pattern of behaviour from our Government rooted in a divisive value system that abandons the poor.

Right now the Government is in a sound financial position to make some real difference to families in New Zealand by reinvesting the $1.8 billion back into welfare and public services, and in that regard they certainly are spoilt for choice as to where the money might go. 

A good place to start would be to fix the problems inherent in Working for Families (WFF) and restore it to where it should be, had it not eroded due to lack of proper adjustment for inflation - let alone wages - since its inception, and changes to policy in 2012. Other areas desperately in need of budgetary expenditure to improve conditions for New Zealand’s worst-off families include the public healthcare system: Increasing funding so that all children have access to free GP visits up to the age of 18 would be a positive way to distribute some of that surplus.

Improving child-care subsidies would go a long way to make work easier to attain for sole parents, and would be a sensible move considering the Government's push for parents to go to work earlier.

You would think that restoring funding to mental health in New Zealand so ‘at risk’ children and young people can more easily access services to help improve their lives would be a no-brainer, too.

They could, and should, do the right thing.

John Key said recently: “This is not the New Zealand we want and it is not acceptable.” He was referring to the high and increasing numbers of homeless families with children.

But instead of doing the right thing by using that $1.8 billion to improve the lives of many in need, tax cuts are again on the table. Instead of talking about easing pressure on struggling families, the Government are talking about the future financial health of the wealthy in New Zealand. What a really nice gesture to 'deserving' business people!

A one per cent, across the board reduction in tax will equate to significant savings for those in the top income spectrum, however will do very little to improve the livelihoods of those families in the bottom end. Furthermore, benefits are set net of tax, so those at the bottom end of the income scale, where children are suffering severe material deprivation, will see not even a dollar of these hypothetical tax cuts.

Let’s not forget too that the last round of tax cuts were partly paid for by hiking up the rate of GST to 15% - a terrible policy for low-income families.

What’s driving this budget surplus is the Government cutting costs in public sector expenditure. That seems like a whole lot of stealing from the poor to give to the rich.