Record health spending in Budget

STATE Treasurer Eric Roozendaal is promising record health spending, but local politicians yesterday warned Northern Rivers residents will be disappointed if they expect to see the long awaited Stage Three of the Lismore Base Hospital upgrade in today's State Budget.

The Government wasn't letting loose any hints about what might be in the Budget for the Northern Rivers, but Ballina MP Don Page said, conservatively, we could expect to see continued funding for the Ballina bypass, money for planning and land acquisition for the Ewingsdale to Tintenbar section of the Pacific Highway, and some planning money for the highway south of Ballina.

Cutting loose and venturing into the realms of hope, Mr Page said the Government's improved Budget position – NSW is expected to go back into surplus in today's budget – could mean the start of construction funding for the Ewingsdale to Tintenbar section.

“They have said their priority (on the highway) is north of Ballina and, if there's any construction money that will be the project that gets it,” Mr Page said.

“I would like to think there would be money for Stage Three of Lismore Base, but I'd be surprised if there's any real commitment.”

Lismore MP Thomas George was similarly pessimistic about the hopes for the Stage Three upgrade getting a guernsey in this Budget.

“I would certainly be pleasantly surprised if there was money on any issue we have been raising – Stage Three included,” he said.

With an election looming, Mr George said he expected to see some big funding commitments in marginal seats.

Lennox Head-based MLC Catherine Cusack said Northern Rivers residents would cop some of the downside of the Budget – such as a newlevy on registrations to cover the cost of upgrading Sydney's transport network – but would miss out on some benefits.

In particular, a predicted cut in payroll tax would be meaningless to the small businesses that dominated the region's economy.



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