Tax cuts not high on list of priorities

ANDREA VANCE
Last updated 08:44 30/06/2014
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National is downplaying the promise of tax cuts, signalling that other policy pledges will take priority.

Prime Minister John Key yesterday said no decision has been made on whether the party would campaign on income tax cuts.

The Government returned the books to black in last month's Budget, leading Key to dangle the prospect of some relief for middle New Zealand.

But as National wrapped up its annual conference in Wellington, he softened his stance.

"In reality we don't have a lot of money to move on tax," he said.

"I'm not saying we couldn't put together a tax package but everyone needs to be realistic about how small that is.

"We'll have other announcements to make during the campaign that inevitably will eat into a few of those [surpluses], so whatever's left theoretically could be used... people's expectations are high and it's difficult to meet those expectations unless you have a lot of money."

Key, and Transport Minister Gerry Brownlee, used the conference to launch a $212 million package of regional road upgrades.

The Government will use proceeds from the sale of state- owned assets to pay for the 14 projects.

Labour accused them of a "U-turn" after years of under- investment. The Greens called the policy an "election bribe."

Brownlee denied the party is trying to buy votes in the regions - arguing many projects are targeted at safe National seats.

"For the first time, we've had money available," he said. "It's come from the asset-sales programme and we are honouring a commitment to spend that money on new assets for New Zealand... what we are going to do is give the regions' roads an opportunity that they have wanted for a very long time." He's also proposing an extra $90 million a year for roading, on top of maintenance.

Twelve weeks out from the election, National launched a #TeamKey social media strategy heavily focused on the leader. A constant theme was inoculating against voter complacency, as the party continues to ride high in opinion polls.

The latest TVNZ/Colmar Brunton poll puts National on 50 per cent (-1 per cent), and Labour on 29 per cent (-1). The Greens were up slightly to 12 per cent (+1) with NZ First dropping to 4 per cent (-1).

Labour leader David Cunliffe said his party will focus on creating jobs and fostering innovation in the regions.

"After six years in office and three months out from the election, the Government has suddenly decided to return some of the road funding it took from the regions to pay for its $12 billion 'roads of national significance'."

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