NZ Election 2020: Paul Goldsmith brushes off Labour's fears of 'inevitable' health cuts, rubbishes claims of another fiscal hole

Paul Goldsmith is brushing off Labour's fears of "inevitable" health cuts under National, and is rubbishing claims of another fiscal hole in his alternative financial plan. 

Labour's finance spokesperson Grant Robertson is concerned his National Party counterpart hasn't allocated enough money in his "error-ridden" budget to new health spending, if he becomes Finance Minister. 

National has left $814 million in unspent operating allowance for health in 2021. Operating allowance is the extra money set aside each year from the Government after collecting more tax thanks to population growth and a growing economy. 

Robertson pumped an extra $980 million to fund district health boards (DHBs) for inflation and population changes this year, before additional costs from COVID-19 were taken into account, and he fears National hasn't budgeted enough. 

"Paul Goldsmith only has $814 million for all new cost pressures across the entire Government Budget next year, and $704 million the year after," Robertson said on Friday. 

National has already signalled its plan to spend less than Labour because it wants to reduce debt quicker, by getting debt to 36 percent of GDP by 2034, compared to Labour which by that time will get debt to 48 percent of GDP. 

The Government opened up its books last week showing operating allowances for health of $2.4 billion for 2021/2022 and the same amount for 2022/2023. In contrast, National allocated $1.5 billion and $1.8 billion, respectively. 

But National is only left with $814 million for next year because it has already allocated some of the money to election promises.

Goldsmith says he will spend taxpayer money more wisely than Labour. 

"It's just a set of opinions from Grant Robertson about how much should be set aside for extra health funding. We have in our budget plenty of money available to increase investment in health and education," he told Newshub. 

"It's just more petty political point scoring from Grant Robertson because he doesn't want to debate the real issues, which is who's got the best plan to get the New Zealand economy back on track."

National has promised 16-month tax cuts if elected by increasing the current income tax thresholds - they say the cuts are targeted towards middle income earners. If you earn between $60,000 and $80,000 a year you'll get between $2500 and $3500. But lower-income earners get way less - $560 to $900 if you're on $50,000.  

The cuts will cost $4.7 billion, paid for from the Government's COVID-19 fund. Labour leader Jacinda Ardern has accused National of "raiding" the fund, set aside in case we're hit with another major coronavirus outbreak. 

National also plans to save money by axing policies like KiwiBuild and paying for the first year of university for students.  

It also wants to stop contributions to the NZ Super Fund, which has landed Goldsmith in hot water after he admitted to miscalculating how much it would save, resulting in a $4 billion fiscal hole he described as "irritating"

Newshub revealed National made the same mistake with its capital allowance, resulting in another $88 million shortfall, and Robertson says National has also double-counted $4 billion worth of funding in transport. 

"It's actually more like $8 billion now," he said on Thursday. "Now they say they're going to cut transport funding in order to make up the gap of the latest $4 billion."

Former Labour Party ministerial advisor Clint Smith has now accused Goldsmith of another $2 billion error, for not calculating how much tax would be lost by cutting NZ Super Fund contributions - but Goldsmith brushed it off, saying it's not something that would be included in a budget. 

"No plan like this goes into the second- and third-order consequences of decisions," he said. 

"It's like, we're going to be introducing significant stimulatory tax cuts that we believe will lead to a growing economy, faster economy, which will lead to more tax revenues, but we don't count for that because it's a second order consequence of the original decision.

"They're kind of assuming that the Super Fund will have higher returns and therefore pay more tax. Well, that's an assumption, who knows? They're throwing more and more smoke out there to avoid having a proper discussion around the substance."