Tas treasurer defends budget spend, debt

Tasmanian Treasurer Peter Gutwein is not sorry for the state's record infrastructure spend.
Tasmanian Treasurer Peter Gutwein is not sorry for the state's record infrastructure spend.

Tasmania's treasurer makes "no apologies for building stuff" after pushing the state into net debt for the first time in 15 years to fund a record infrastructure spend.

Peter Gutwein unveiled the 2019/20 budget on Thursday, including $3.6 billion allocated for infrastructure - almost half of that towards road and bridges.

The budget will maintain a slim surplus of $57.4 million this coming financial year but plunge the state into a net debt of $284 million at the same time.

That debt is forecast to balloon to $1.1 billion in 2022/23, about a sixth of the state's overall yearly expenditure.

A year ago Mr Gutwein proclaimed Tasmania was on the cusp of a golden age, one opposition parties believe has now been squandered.

"That irresponsible dive into debt will see Tasmanian taxpayers foot the bill for millions of dollars worth of interest every year," Labor's shadow treasurer Scott Bacon said.

Mr Gutwein described the debt level as "modest and manageable" and defended the infrastructure investment as crucial for a growing state.

"This is the budget I am most proud of. It will deliver not just for today, but for future generations of Tasmanians," he said.

"We have pulled the lever on further infrastructure ... rather than changing down a gear, we changed up a gear. We make no apologies for building stuff."

He said decisions about how to repay the debt would be made in future years.

The 2018/19 "golden age" budget was originally forecast to achieve a surplus of $161.9 million but that is expected to be just $41.3 million at the end of June, after the government spent on easing health system demand and summer bushfire recovery.

Australian Associated Press