Half of Victoria's budget spend for regions on 2026 Games
Regional Victoria's next round of state government stimulus will largely featured infrastructure investment in regional cities anointed with hosting rights for the 2026 Commonwealth Games.
Treasurer Tim Pallas handed down the budget on Tuesday splurging over $5 billion on regional Victoria and $12 billion on the state's health system.
Whilst much of the health spending would primarily be seen in Melbourne, $218 million will go to improving the embattled Emergency Services Telecommunications Authority (ESTA) response times and $124 million to recruit ninety paramedics statewide.
Returning migrants and an economic rebound are the horses the Andrews Labor Government is backing to project a $652 million budget surplus by 2025/26, while net debt will rise to $167.5 billion over that same period.
Early budget analysis indicates at least $2.3 billion remains in the government's war chest to pledge before the November election.
The government pledged to create a Future Fund to help pay down public borrowings, initially funded through the commercialisation of VicRoads.
Global ratings agencies Moody's and Standard and Poor's praised Victoria's economic recovery but cited infrastructure spending and rising interest rates as downside risks to its already downgraded credit scores. Moody's Investors Service Vice President John Manning said:
"We expect Victoria's debt burden will not stabilise before the end of fiscal 2027, further increasing negative pressure on the state's rating."
Opposition Leader Matthew Guy said the state's infrastructure cost blowouts and "mountainous" debt levels would have consequences for all Victorians.
Victorian Farmers Federation (VFF) President Emma Germano said the budget failed to promote farming as a key means to economic recovery:
“Agriculture plays a vital role in keeping Victoria’s economy moving and the investment in the services and infrastructure we need and deserve is totally underwhelming.”
"Farmers have helped to keep Victoria alive through the pandemic and now that we are approaching the other side, we can’t be treated as an afterthought.
“This is yet another budget that fails to address the chronic underfunding of Victoria’s regional road network.”
“Western Victoria has particularly missed out on funding for upgrades to critical freight routes so farmers can get food and fibre to market.
“Farmers will be expecting substantial investment in our sector and in our communities in the lead-up to November’s State election. We will be demanding a fair go for all of regional Victoria.”
Victorian Chamber of Commerce and Industry chief executive Paul Guerra said:
"This budget is all about the three Ps: patients, participation and provincial. This is an election budget which delivers a major investment in health, education, skills, industry development and regional Victoria."
The budget invests $2.6 billion to prepare for the recently confirmed Victorian Commonwealth Games. The 2026 showpiece will be the first Games hosted by a state, rather than a city, with Geelong, Bendigo, Ballarat, the Gippsland and Shepparton selected as joint host cities. The Games spend dominates a total $5.7 billion being invested in regional Victoria in the budget, with $1 billion for infrastructure, nurses, doctors, paramedics and allied health professionals - principally in the Barwon, Ballarat and Shepparton regions.
The Liberal Party declared in Mildura in early April that it would - if elected in a Coalition government in November - spend $750 million on a new Mildura hospital. Opposition Leader Matthew Guy said on Tuesday afternoon the budget was a raw deal for regional Victoria.
“Years of under-investment by Labor has put regional health under severe stress.
“That’s why we’ve listened to the community in Wodonga and why we’ve committed to build a $750 million teaching hospital in Mildura, because those who learn in the country are more likely to stay in the country.
“Victorians deserve a government that focuses on all of Victoria, not just Melbourne.”
The Country Women's Association is getting a share of a $3.9 million fund over four years for leadership groups and the Cross Border Commissioner.
Victoria Tourism Industry Council chief executive Felicia Mariani bemoaned the absence of a jobs roadmap to help the tourism sector:
"With nearly $465 million of investment targeted at driving demand and building profile for Victoria in key markets, this budget is a strong endorsement by the government of the vital role Victoria's visitor economy will play in our state's recovery. The missing plank in all of this, however, is the urgent jobs crisis crippling our industry and impeding recovery."