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Regional train lines will get a $1.45 billion funding boost as the Andrews government moves to shore up its support across country Victoria ahead of next year's state election.
With suburban level crossing removals and the Melbourne Metro Rail Project firmly underway, regional transport will be a centrepiece of Tuesday's state budget – and every rail line will benefit from a revamp.
The long-awaited cash splash will be unveiled by Premier Daniel Andrews and Public Transport Minister Jacinta Allan on Sunday. It includes:
The state government is boosting regional rail by $1.4 billion. Photo: Justin McManus"This is the next stage of our regional rail revival – because regional Victorians deserve public transport they can count on," Mr Andrews said.
The $1.45 billion investment will be funded under the federal government's asset recycling scheme, which gives the states 15 per cent bonuses for selling private assets – in Victoria's case, the Port of Melbourne.
But in order for the projects to proceed as planned, the Commonwealth must give Victoria its full entitlement or pave the way for yet another state-federal stoush.
A war of words initially erupted last year over how much Victoria was owed, but state insiders say it would be difficult for the federal government not to back the regional plan given state and federal Coalition MPs – including Sarah Henderson (Corangamite) and Dan Tehan (Wannon) – have been calling on Labor to improve country services for weeks.
Cash splash: $110 million is pledged for the first stage of a new Surf Coast Rail Project. Photo: Justin McManusTuesday's budget is likely to be leaner than previous years, but with an ongoing focus on Labor's core priorities: education, health, transport and jobs. However, "savings" across the public service are also expected, along with a number of new revenue-raising measures and tax changes.
Some details emerged on Saturday, when Treasurer Tim Pallas announced that from July 1, property transfers between spouses and de facto partners will no longer be exempt from stamp duty (not including the principle place of residence or a transfer in the aftermath of a relationship breakdown).
Also from July, new passenger vehicles will start being charged the same duty rates as used passenger vehicles, rising from $6.40 per $200 of the market value to $8.40 per $200. New cars will therefore become more expensive: for instance, the stamp duty on a Toyota Corolla valued at $23,500 will increase by about $230.
And from 2019, property valuations will occur annually – a move the opposition says will ensure rates and land tax rates will rise every 12 months.
Liberal spokesman Michael O'Brien accused Mr Andrews of breaking his pre-election promise not to increase or introduce any new taxes, and warned that the changes would add to cost of living pressures already felt by families.
"Under Daniel Andrews the only thing rising faster than the crime rate is the tax rate," he said.
But Treasurer Tim Pallas disagreed, saying: "These changes are fair and equitable and will help ensure the government continues to deliver the roads, schools, and services that matter to Victorians."
This article first appeared on www.theage.com.au
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