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  • Ethan Rogacion

What the Hell is an Appropriation Anyway???

Your Budget 2024 Explainer


ETHAN ROGACION (HE/HIM)


It is once again time for MPs to show off that they can, indeed, count above three. That’s right: it's Budget season! Wait, don’t run away—this stuff matters and is kind of interesting, I swear!  This Thursday, the 30th of May, Minister of Finance Nicola Willis will release the Government’s Budget, setting out how much money it expects to earn, and what it plans to spend that money on. Don’t worry if you’re confused: we’ve got you covered.


What is the Budget?


At its core, the Budget is the document that keeps Aotearoa going by giving the Government the money it needs to do stuff: it's what keeps hospitals open, what funds our schools, and keeps our country moving. Plainly, it’s the statement of how much money the government has—factoring in debt, revenue from taxes, and other stuff—and what it intends to spend that money on.


The Budget sets out how the Government expects to make money. This is done through a bunch of levers, but the Coalition have been pushing hard on the idea of ‘making savings in the public service’—basically, laying off government staff in order to fund their policies.


The Government allocates sets of money to smaller, specific areas of policy; this is called an ‘Appropriation’. These Appropriations are then further grouped into larger collections, all in a certain area of Government spending. These groups of Appropriations are, confusingly, called ‘Votes’. Some of these areas include Tertiary Education, Health, Serious Fraud, Māori Development, Defence, and so on (the 2023 Budget had 45 distinct Votes).  


What happens on Budget Day?


On Thursday, Willis will make a speech to Parliament explaining the content of her Budget. But before then, journalists enter the lock up. This doesn’t, in fact, refer to Winston Peters’ dream of arresting all the journos that annoy him. Instead, it refers to the nation’s newsies being locked up in a big room in Parliament with the Budget documents, prior to them being publicly shared.


At 2pm, the documents get released, journalists break down what’s in store, and Parliament debates the Appropriation Bill. Parliament plays an important role in the scrutiny of the Government’s spending, so get ready for… some boring ass debate about the specifics of spreadsheets!


What can I expect from this year’s Budget?


Since the Budget is confidential until Thursday, we have no idea about the specifics of anything that the Government is planning on announcing. But, we can make some inferences based on things like previous policy. For example, their decision to bring back tax deductibility for landlords, and marginal tax cuts for some people, are pretty much guaranteed to be part of the package.


Furthermore, this budget is being delivered in the midst of the cost-of-living crisis, which is hitting tertiary students especially hard. It comes at the same time as students at the University of Auckland are striking in protest of increasing accommodation fees, and as students rally for paid placements: evidently, students need more support from the Government to make ends meet. As Greens co-leader Chlöe Swarbrick told Salient, “Poverty is a barrier to education, far from being the pathway out of it.”


So, what’s in store for students? We genuinely have no idea! Salient reached out to Minister for Tertiary Education Penny Simmonds but have not received a reply in time for publication. So, keep an eye out Thursday, I guess! Will the Government give uni students direct, targeted support? Probably not.

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