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State aiming for $140m surplus

STATE Treasurer Kim Wells says the government is on track to deliver a $140 million budget surplus despite new figures revealing a jump in the wage bill for Victoria's public servants and a big deficit early in the new financial year.

STATE Treasurer Kim Wells says the government is on track to deliver a $140 million budget surplus despite new figures revealing a jump in the wage bill for Victoria's public servants and a big deficit early in the new financial year.

Treasury's financial update reveals the budget was in deficit by $171 million during the first three months of the 2011-12 financial year, compared to a surplus of $491 million for the same three-month period the previous year.

Although Treasury cautioned the figures should not be seen as a sign that the budget is in trouble because Commonwealth payments and tax revenue tend to flow more strongly later in the year, the report showed it cost almost $4.1 billion to pay the wages of government workers during the September quarter of 2011-12, $239 million more than in 2010-11.

It follows figures from the State Services Authority showing the number of Victorian public-sector workers swelled by 3165 to 264,233 over the year in 2010-11.

The report also revealed that global share market turmoil slashed $4.2 billion from the government's pool of superannuation assets

Mr Wells, who will deliver a major budget in early December, said the economy was continuing to perform well and Victoria "remains on track to achieve the forecast of a $140 million surplus for 2011-12.

"The European debt crisis continues to cause uncertainty, and slower economic growth in other key international economies has been a challenge for all states and the national economy," Mr Wells said. "The high Australian dollar continues to affect the international education, manufacturing, and tourism industries, and in addition a weaker overall national economic outlook is challenging all government budgets."

The figures showed the government is expecting to collect more than $1 billion from poker machines this year, despite its refusal to model the impact of its plan to introduce technology allowing players to voluntarily set limits on losses.

The government is expecting to collect a total of $15.4 billion in tax revenue, about 25 per cent of it from land stamp duty. But the figures come amid concerns that the property market has been more sluggish than first thought, suggesting stamp duty collections could be weaker than expected.

The outlook has also been clouded by growing concerns about the outlook for the world economy, with mounting fears Italy will be unable to pay its massive debts, now totalling more than the entire value of the economy.

"In the United States, the economic recovery remains patchy, while it has stalled in Europe," Treasury said. "Uncertainty in world markets is likely to remain in the near term, with another significant slowing in global growth possible."

The report said collections of land tax revenue tended to be stronger in January, February and March, while dividend payments from public authorities tended to boost the bottom line in October and April each year. It also said the September-quarter deficit had been influenced by the timing of GST payments from the Commonwealth.


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