THE toughest Victorian budget in more than a decade” yesterday delivered more than $120 million in health and road infrastructure spending to the Ballarat region, including $46.4 million for redevelopment at the Base Hospital, including a helipad.
Treasurer Kim Wells said the state’s difficult economic conditions meant a further 600 public service jobs would be cut to deliver a modest surplus of $155 million, while major projects including the upgrade of Ballarat’s Eureka Stadium would not be funded.
Ballarat Base Hospital will receive significant upgrade works associated with the new helipad, after more than 10 years of campaigning by local residents and health authorities.
The planned works will include a new multi-deck car park in Mair Street, capacity for 60 new beds and a new three-storey building in Drummond Street.
Mr Wells also announced more than $77 million in new funding for the region’s roads in 2012-13, including the expected $35.5 million for the Ballarat West Link Road and $42 million to be spent on the duplication of 18 kilometres of the Western Highway between Beaufort and Buangor.
The package also included $10 million for upgrade works at Phoenix Community College in Sebastopol, $1 million over three years to return the Yarrowee River to health and another 12 months’ funding for the Ballarat office of the Department of Premier and Cabinet.
The city’s rail commuters will also benefit from about 30 new
V/Line carriages to be delivered by the end of 2014, but the introduction of myki on regional trains will not take place until mid-2013.
Mr Wells said the government would push to have the carriages manufactured in Victoria but would not specify the exact number due to commercial considerations.
The government has also allocated a further $172 million for regional rail maintenance.
Mr Wells defended the 600 public service jobs cuts as necessary, despite them coming just months after 3600 public service positions were axed.
“Conditions are tough, hard decisions had to be made, efficiencies had to be found, but despite all this we are delivering a surplus,” Ms Wells said.
Ballarat West MP Sharon Knight called the package “a horror budget for Ballarat families” who she said were hoping for a budget which would protect jobs in the state.
“Rather than supporting job growth in Ballarat, the Baillieu government is winding back on support for construction of new home by scrapping the first home owners bonus and sacking public servants,” Ms Knight said.
“It is disappointing that we may have to wait years for a helipad to be built with only $5.5m in capital funding for Ballarat Base Hospital provided in the next financial year.”
The Australian Industry Group welcomed the budget package as “pragmatic” while ratings agency Standard and Poor’s said the state would retain its AAA credit rating.