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South Australian State Budget delivers surplus, but net debt grows

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On Thursday 6 June South Australian Treasurer Stephen Mulligan delivered the state’s budget focusing on housing, cost of living relief, jobs and skills, and health.

His third budget delivers a $306m surplus in 2023-24 – almost double what was forecasted in the mid-year budget review, largely attributable to better-than-expected GST and state tax revenues, including payroll tax, conveyance duty and land taxes. This resulted in South Australia’s tax revenues were revised up by $357m in 2023-24 and a further $1b from 2024-25 to 2026-27. The state’s GST coffers have been increased by $162m in 2023-24 and a forecasted $635m between 2024-25 and 2026-27.

Surpluses are projected over the next four years, while net debt is forecasted to escalate from $27.9b in 2023-24 to $44.2b in 2027-28, due to large-scale infrastructure projects.

However, growth in the state has slowed with the state’s economy growing at 1.1 per cent annually, and employment growth set to drop to 0.5 per cent from a high of 2.0 per cent in 2023-24, and forecast to rise by just 0.75 per cent in 2025-26. 

Key highlights

  • $25.6b infrastructure spend over four years
  • $2.5b for health
  • $1.9b early childhood services investment
  • $843.6m to boost housing
  • $610.3m over the forward estimates for skills and training
  • $266.2m cost of living package
  • $32.2m additional funding for the Economic Recovery Fund
  • $20m for small business energy grants

Revenue Measures

Abolition of duty for first-home buyers

In what is a significant change for first home buyers, the thresholds for both the first home buyer stamp duty exemption and First Home Owner Grant (FHOG) have been entirely abolished. This means that eligible first home buyers will benefit from a full exemption from stamp duty, and receive the $15,000 FHOG, irrespective of purchase price. Previously, the stamp duty exemption on new homes and FHOG was subject to a value cap of $650,000 (with concessional rates of stamp duty relief on purchases up to $700,000).

This change will apply to all eligible first home buyers who enter into a contract to purchase a new home or vacant land to build a new home on or after 6 June 2024.

Payroll Tax for General Practitioners

The South Australian Government has announced that amendments will be made to the Payroll Tax Act 2009 from 1 July 2024 to provide an exemption from payroll tax on the wages of general practitioners (GPs) for bulk billed services. The exemption will be calculated based on the proportion of bulk billed items relative to the total number of billed items. This percentage deduction will then be applied against the medical practices’ total annual GP wages expense before the payroll tax liability is calculated.

The exemption will only apply to the wages of a GP registered or on a pathway to registration as a specialist GP with the Medical Board of Australia, and regardless of whether they are employed by a clinic or engaged as a contractor. The exemption will not apply to the wages of any other staff employed in the medical practice.

The Government expects that this measure will incentivise the bulk billing of patients and improve the availability of affordable medical care.