At a time of low wage growth, you would think people would be jumping for joy at the idea of personal income tax cuts.
Yet two surveys this week found voters believe there are much more important issues the government has to deal with.
For example, a Newspoll survey found 27 per cent of respondents want increased funding on health, while 26 per cent said reducing the debt and deficit should be the top priority for the budget.
Just 15 per cent supported cutting personal income tax, with the same proportion backing infrastructure spending, the latter being another flagged focus for the May 8 budget.
Likewise, an Essential Research survey showed that while 22 per cent of voters want the government to address cost of living pressures as their number one priority, income tax cuts came way down the list with just four per cent believing this is the way to go.
There was greater support for health funding, job creation, housing affordability, improving wages, national security, promoting economic growth, tackling tax avoidance by big companies and renewable energy.
Business tax cuts drew just two per cent support behind reducing the budget deficit at four per cent.
Deloitte Access Economic partner Chris Richardson says while improving global and local economies are ‘raining revenue’ on the federal budget, he urges against frittering this away on income tax cuts.
He believes the economy is doing fine without them and says it is more political than anything else.
The avid budget watcher argues the windfall economic gains made during the mining boom were promised away by both the coalition and Labor through tax cuts in what he describes as a mistake of ‘historic proportions’.
‘That boom fizzled, leaving huge deficits in its wake,’ Richardson said.
It’s a bit like taking out a mortgage based on the expectation of overtime permanently padding out your wages, but then suddenly finding the household budget blowing out when it doesn’t.
What shape the personal tax cuts take remains to be seen, but the government has already put some of its windfall tax revenue to ditching its planned 0.5 per cent increase in the Medicare levy to help fund the National Disability Insurance Scheme.
Interestingly, the two surveys suggest voters either put the same or more emphasis on the government needing to get the budget repaired than cutting taxes.
Scott Morrison has stuck to forecasting a surplus in 2020/21 since becoming treasurer in late 2015.
But it has been a long time coming, compared with what the coalition used to brag about in dealing with what it labelled as a ‘budget emergency’.
Prior to winning the 2013 federal election, former Liberal leader Tony Abbott and his then shadow treasurer Joe Hockey used to make getting to a surplus sound so easy.
Initially it was going to be in their first year of government.
Then it was within four years. And when the election was fast approaching, it was ‘before Labor’.
When in power the time frame had become even vaguer, even though Abbott insisted the budget was on a credible path.
Morrison insists he has never used terms like ‘budget emergency’ but says there is still an urgency to bring the nation’s finances back to balance.
‘We need to keep the tension in the cord on managing the budget,’ Morrison says.
‘We need to bring the budget back to balance, we need to do it responsibly and in a measured way.’
With this budget looking more like a pre-election offering, voters will be able to give their view on how ‘responsible’ and ‘measured’ the government has been at the polling booth.