Yesterday, we published the first stage of our analysis of the comparative costs of political party policy proposals in the lead up to the 20 September election on the Taxpayers' Union website: http://taxpayers.org.nz/pages/bribe-o-meter We started with the a side-by-side comparison for National Party and Labour Party spending. In coming weeks, we will adjust the chart and tables to reflect new policy announcements, and add in our estimates of the cost of proposals by the Green Party, New Zealand First, ACT, and the other parties.
In constructing our comparison, we took some information on new spending from the 2014 Budget as representing new policy for National, who have yet to announce any substantial new spending in their formal election campaign. We have been crticised for taking this approach, as National will claim that whoever leads the Government in the next Parliament will very likely adopt the Budget spending as the starting point for their administration.
Our view is that there are certainly elements of policy in the Budget that are contentious, and that other parties have already proposed alternative policies in some areas. Where Labour have proposed different Education and Welfare policies, for instance, we have charged the full cost of those policies to Labour's new spending account, and believe we have adopted a consistent approach in allocating the cost of the corresponding Budget policies to National's spending account. There are other areas where we have included Budget proposals as part of National's new spending proposals. In most cases, these are where Labour have different spending proposals, either as part of their May 2014 Fiscal Plan, or as newly announced policy. However, there are some areas of spending that are not matched by alternatives.
As National and other parties unveil their new policy proposals we will review what should be treated as future baseline and what should be treated as new policy spending from the 2014 Budget. However, we need to recognise that in an election year, the incumbent government has an opportunity to include new policy measures in its Budget and have these incorporated into baselines, whereas opposition parties must state all of their proposals independently.
In some cases, parties will propose to re-allocate funding within current Budget allocations to fund alternative policies. That raise the question of how to measure the attributable cost for the new policies. If the current policy is reversible, then its cost may need to be treated as a policy proposal. On the other hand, to the extent that spending is in the baselines, some may consider that only incremental costs should be relevant - and that cost savings should be treated as negative spending.
These issues is open to debate. We aim to establish a level playing-field.