Bill English is a clever man, through an economic sleight of hand he produced the holy grail, a budget surplus. This was celebrated as a worthwhile achievement since the tax cuts for the wealthy had reduced the Government's income considerably (tax revenue plummeted from $44 billion in 2008 to $33 billion a few years later). It needed budget trimming and austerity measures in many areas and increasing revenue from other sources (like SOE dividends, more speeding tickets and borrowing $50 billion) to ensure the rich could continue enjoying their windfall.
The cost of the budget surplus is being paid for in other ways:
- Hospitals are not able to function when funding doesn't keep up with population growth, a greater percentage of elderly and exploding diabetes rates. The Southland District Health Board has a commissioner to force through more cuts to live within an impossible population based funding regime and the Canterbury Health Board has had to get a $15 million top up to meet current commitments. All health boards are struggling and are having to limit essential services.
- At least 160,000 people have been shifted off waiting lists despite being identified as needing treatment.
- Under-funded mental health services have shifted the first response to the police. It is now common for people experiencing a mental health event to be physically restrained by police (with no training in this area), handcuffed and thrown into a police cell. Police are now dealing with 100 mentally ill people a day, with each callout averaging five-and-a-half hours to resolve.
- Smaller communities are losing their services with Oamaru looking at losing their 24 hour A&E service and many rural communities losing valuable services.
But Bill got a surplus!
- The Government saved lots of money by cutting the level of trained staff in centres that will be funded to 80% and lifting child teacher ratios. Many of those working in Early Childhood wouldn't place their own children in their centres and complaints from parents are increasing.
- Delaying maintenance and not dealing with leaky schools in a timely fashion has reached a point where the costs of a catch up and building new schools in areas of growing population has developed into a massive billion dollar+ problem.
But Bill got a surplus!
- As the demand for social housing has grown the Government has focussed on selling Housing New Zealand stock, reducing staff numbers across the country and restricting maintenance so that it can pay a dividend back to the coffers.
- The delayed maintenance bill for Housing New Zealand is now estimated at $1.2 billion and we have children and adults who are becoming sick and even dying because of this.
But Bill got a surplus on the backs of the poor, the sick, the struggling and the homeless...
and the rich get to keep their tax cuts.