PRE-ELECTION BUDGET

THE 2018 state budget contained commitments in education, infrastructure, roads and transport upgrades, a blackspot program to improve several telecommunications, health and several water projects, but held little mention of North West Victoria. 

Handed down by the Labor government on Tuesday, the budget has received a lukewarm reception from rural bodies and Liberal MPs, who said regional Victoria had been overlooked in favour of metropolitan areas. 

The budget handed down by the Labor government last week has been accused of favouring Melbourne.

The budget handed down by the Labor government last week has been accused of favouring Melbourne.

The Swan Hill region secured $5 million towards the Swan Hill bridge, $300,000 towards a business case to build a silo art trail around the Mallee and $600,000 for the Mallee's $600,000. 

Tax cuts for regional businesses and changes to the stamp-duty free threshold for young farmers purchasing their first plot of land were also outlined. 

The New South Wales government welcomed the move to establish a Cross Border Commission in the 2018/19 budget as a win for residents and businesses in the NSW-Victoria border region. 

But, Swan Hill schools missed out on funding for upgrades and maintenance, while health services in the area also went without. 

Of $65 million put towards providing water security to Victorian communities, building irrigation and water supply infrastructure $8 million was received for Victoria's contribution to the Murray Darling Basin Authority.

The $941 million towards regional roads upgrades was welcomed by the Victorian Farmers Federation as a "start", but well short of the investment needed to ensure "fit-for-purpose roads" in country Victoria. 

Regional Victoria also missed out on funding for train upgrades, with Labor failing to match the Liberal Nationals promise of $633 million to replace the ageing regional fleet with new VLocity style trains.

Member for Murray Plains Peter Walsh slammed the budget as a "raw deal" for country Victoria and Swan Hill Rural City Council Mayor Les McPhee said often state governments forgot to look beyond the regional cities of Bendigo, Ballarat and Geelong. 

Despite the concern expressed around the distribution of funds between city centres and country areas, Premier Daniel Andrews and Treasurer Tim Pallas said the 2018/19 was a budget that would "get things done". 

With its heavy focus on skills and training, including a commitment of $172 million to make TAFE training free for 30 priority courses, Mr Andrews said the budget would ensure the state is able to meet its growing demand for skilled workers. 

Mr Andrews said the tax cut for rural business would see businesses in country Victorian pay the lowest payroll tax in Australia, building on cuts made last year to further reduce taxes for regional businesses to a rate of 2.425 per cent, nearly half that paid in metropolitan areas.

Mr Pallas said these cuts along with the near double increase of the stamp-duty free threshold for young farmers from $300,000 to $600,00 would see small business expand, new businesses started and more local jobs created.

"For the third year in a row we're reducing the tax burden in regional Victoria, sharing our economic success with every corner of the state," he said. 

Mr Pallas said the budget would deliver a strong surplus and continued jobs growth with the plan estimated to deliver an operating surplus of $1.4 billion in 2018-19 and surpluses averaging $2.5 billion over the forward estimates. 

"This budget invests in the things that matter — so every Victorian family has a good local school, access to quality healthcare, and better roads and public transport to get them home sooner."

Mr Andrews was equally optimistic. 

"This is a Labor budget that delivers on the things that matter to Victorians: new skills, good jobs, more schools and better roads," Mr Andrews said. 

"It's an investment in the big projects that our state needs and the people we need to deliver them."

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