Money for music, tax for the rich — what you missed in Budget 2021

ELLA BATES-HERMANS/STUFF
How does the government Budget work and what does that mean for you?

Understandably, the big spending items tend to get the most attention on Budget Day.

When the Government allocates $3.8 billion of new operating spending in a single year, not including $12b worth of investments in capital infrastructure, things costing $5 million or $10m tend to get missed.

These include funding to make important upgrades to heritage buildings, as well as funding the pet projects of ministers.

Here are the best bits you might have missed in the Budget.

READ MORE:
* Budget 2021: How much money will be in the Budget?
* Taxpayers to fork out $1 billion in film subsidies over the next five years
* Election 2020: A 'sugar hit' tax cut or public spend-up 'waste': the Stuff Finance Debate

Historic Turnbull House, Wellington, is closed while it awaits earthquake strengthening work (photo first published 2015).
Supplied/Stuff
Historic Turnbull House, Wellington, is closed while it awaits earthquake strengthening work (photo first published 2015).

Strengthening Turnbull House

Opposite the Beehive – visible from the banquet hall where the Budget lock up takes place – is the historic Turnbull House. The Victorian – almost arts and crafts – house is lovingly preserved in central Wellington.

However, to the finely-honed eye of a seismically conscious Wellingtonian its tasteful bricks and mortar construction is a bit uninviting and, like many buildings in the capital, it’s currently closed for strengthening.

Budget 2021 has allocated $250,000 to do “detailed planning” for the eventual strengthening of the building. Goodness knows how much the actual work will cost or when it will get started.

The NZ Symphony Orchestra received a cash boost in the Budget.
Stephen A'Court
The NZ Symphony Orchestra received a cash boost in the Budget.

Cost pressures in the arts

Our nation’s performers, artists, and journalists don’t make an awful lot of money – it’s been a while since many had a pay rise.

Looking through the budget documents there are worrying appropriations tagged simply for “staff retention”, suggesting ministers bidding for the money had been told New Zealand faced an exodus of performers if people weren’t given a pay rise.

The NZ Symphony Orchestra was given $1.6m in this year and next ($3.2 in total) to address “cost pressures arising from increases in personnel and orchestral costs to maintain delivery levels.”

The Orchestra’s companions from across the car park at Wellington’s Michael Fowler Centre, the Royal New Zealand Ballet, received $624,000 this year and $533,000 in 2022 to “avoid significant cuts” to the group’s nationwide delivery and performance capability. This would be achieved “by addressing cost pressures from price increases and a reduction in earning ability as a result of COVID-19.”

Radio New Zealand got some money too: $900,000 to address “cost pressures and retain the current workforce”. Money well spent – poor RNZ is still reeling from a multi-year funding freeze.

The Royal New Zealand Ballet received $624,000 this year and $533,000 in 2022 (file photo).
Stephen A'Court/Supplied
The Royal New Zealand Ballet received $624,000 this year and $533,000 in 2022 (file photo).

Tax the rich (or at least find out how much tax the rich pay)

As the old adage goes, you have to spend money to make money, and it appears the Government might be looking to see if they can shake any extra change out of the wealthiest citizens.

Revenue Minister David Parker has managed to secure $5m over two years to look at how much tax the rich pay. The wording of the appropriation is clear that it’s not about formulating a new tax for the uber-wealthy. Instead, it’s to be put towards researching how much tax they already pay.

Parker has been poking around this idea for a while, and has received multiple briefings on the subject from officials. Those briefings, released to Stuff under the OIA, show that Treasury and IRD have struggled to get a grip on the wealth levels of the very richest kiwis – and how much tax they pay.

This initiative looks like it will fund research to improve that data. It’s only got two years of money, running out in 2023 – election year, when any new tax that might emerge from that research would probably be put to voters.

Prize money

A cool $4.2m over the next four years has been set aside for the prime minister’s Vocational Excellence Awards. The awards were established in 2019 to reward vocational education and are given to the top student in a vocational programme of learning in each public secondary school and wharekura in the country.