The Ashburton Guardian, COUNTY AGRICULTURAL & SPORTING RECORDER THURSDAY, JUNE 10, 1880.
The Financial Statement delivered by the Colonial Treasurer on Tuesday night was one of the most comprehensive we have ever perused, and will, we are confident, convince politicians of all shades of opinion that the gentleman at the head of our Treasury is thoroughly conversant even with the minutiae of his department. Assuming charge of our finance at a most critical period, Major Atkinson at once applied himself to the onerous duties of his office with an energy and ability which enabled him to produce from the disorganisation of his predecessors a tolerably clear Statement for presentatian to the last session of Parliament. At that time he promised that a clearer and more comprehensive Statement should be placed before the House, and the fulfilment of this promise is ably accomplished in the Budget now under consideration. The Treasurer, after briefly referring to the preceding Financial Statement, expressed confidence that the present check to our prosperity is only temporary, but at the same time dealt strongly on the absolute necessity of rigorous economy and the determination of Government to bring the annual expenditure within the the annual revenue by reducing the former and, if necessary, increasing the latter by additional taxation. It will be remembered that when the Financial Statement of last session was presented, it was imputed by the Opposition that the Minister in charge of this department had exaggerated the difficulties of the position by greatly under-estimating the revenue, and many friends of the Government regarded the views of the Colonial Treasurer as too gloomy, but it will be seen from the Statement which we publish elsewhere, that the result of the financial year has been even worse than Major Atkinson’s anticipations, a deficiency of £133,790 occurring instead of £131,824 as estimated, and this notwithstanding the fact that large savings have been accomplished in almost every branch of expenditure. The revenue fell short of anticipations by £261,441, a large deficiency occurring in both Customs and stamp duties, but in reference to the former the Treasurer remarks it is rather a matter for congratulation, assuming it to be an indication of more thrifty habits and greater self denial on the part of our population. We fear that stern necessity has had more to do with this result han any permanent reform in the domestic habits of the taxpayers, but wo earnestly hope, notwithstanding the temporary inconvenience it may cause so far as the revenue is concerned, that the assumption of the Minister is a correct one. The receipts from railways felljshort of the estimate by £113,072, but this is in some way counterbalanced by a saving in expenditure of this department of £43,242. The total expenditure appears to have exceeded the total receipts by £91)0,081, aod the total debt of the colony has now reached £27,409,113, subject to an actual charge of about £1,535,000 per annum. Of the £5,000,000 loan £3,000,000 has been used, and it is easy to appreciate the anxiety of Government last session with a prospect of only £300,000 of the proposed loan being floated. The discontinuance of subsidies was foreshadowed last session, and it is honestly announced now as a necessary step. At the same time a scheme is propounded which, we think, will he a convenient and efficient substitute. Local bodies will be entitled to collect rates from General Government on Grown property and Maori country lands, and native owners of property within boroughs will directly contribute. The Government hope by reductions in several branches of expenditure, inclu ling their own salaries, to effect a saving of £523,000 on the year’s expenditure. It is intimated that there will be a slight increase on the rate of freight on the railway, and that personal effects, furniture, and books will be exempt from the operation of the Property Tax. This exemption means a loss of £40,000 a year to the revenue, and we -are disappointed that the Government made the concession, although we do not see our way to disapprove of the tax they have substituted, viz.—a beer tax of Cd. per gallon. It is expected that this tax will produce £IOO,OOO per annum, and, with an increase on the succession duties will leave the Government with a surplus of £41,291 with which to end the financial year. We shall return to the consideration of this Statement in detail when space and opportunity offer.