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The Budget in black and white

In three days’ time Bill English’s tie will make the news. In three days' time it's Budget Day. In media circles the Finance Minister’s tie traditionally plays a bellwether role, its colour and pattern seen as an indicator of what the Budget will contain.

That being the case then this year’s should be black and white because anything in between won’t cut it. There’s some really important issues the Government’s 8th Budget needs to address.  

THE ECONOMY
There are now 140,000 New Zealanders out of work, 40,000 more than when National took office. 43% of Kiwis didn’t get a pay rise last year. Since 2009, the slice of the economy going to workers has fallen by $3.8 billion. That means that since then, Kiwi households have missed out on over $13,000 each. This year, each household has missed out by $2,579 or $50 a week.

We need to: Diversify our economy, invest in innovation, science, and skills training; back small business with simpler tax rules; deliver major regional development projects to get local economies moving and direct government procurement money to back Kiwi businesses.

HOUSING
We have a housing crisis. Home ownership rates are at their lowest level in 64 years. The average house price in Auckland - ranked 28th most expensive city to buy a home when National took power, but now ranked 4th - rose by $2,258 a day in March. House prices here are among the highest in the world compared with our incomes. The average home in Auckland now costs 9 times the average wage, and as house prices soar, so too do rents. Here's cartoonist of the year Sharon Murdoch's take on it:

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We need to: Build thousands of affordable homes; crack down on offshore speculators buying existing homes; remove urban limit boundaries in Auckland that choke off housing supply; and ensure all rentals are warm and dry.

EDUCATION
Funding per pupil was cut by $150 last year, meaning the money available for schools is now lower than it was in the Government’s first term, meaning parents are being loaded with more costs. And while they are paying more, parents are seeing our schools tumble down the education rankings. According to the OECD, under this government New Zealand schools have fallen from 5th in the world for reading to 13th. The tertiary sector is struggling too, with the cost of post-school education 40 per cent higher than in 2008 and student debt hitting $15 billion.

We need to: Fund schools so they don’t have to keep relying on donations and fundraising; tackle falling achievement rates by freeing up teachers to spend more time in the classroom; and provide lifelong learning and training opportunities, with support for young entrepreneurs and three years' free post school undergraduate education for those looking to retrain or change careers later in life. 

HEALTH
$1.7 billion has been cut from the Health budget over 6 years. There’s at least 160,000 Kiwis who need to see a specialist but can’t get an appointment, health professionals and DHBs stretched to breaking point and cancer patients unable to access life-saving medicine.

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We need to: Invest in tackling the biggest drivers of health costs, such as diabetes prevention; progressively restore the money National has cut from Health; ensure Pharmac is properly funded to allow wider access to life-saving medicines.