How to pay for the floods
The floods in Queensland and other states have destroyed a lot of public infrastructure that will need to be rebuilt, as well as damaging crops and reducing output in other industries. In most cases, if the infrastructure made sense in the first place, it makes sense to replace it, which raises the question of how to pay for it. The proposals Gillard seems likely to announce, centred on a one-off levy sound about right to me. As I argued a while back, the rebuilding is likely to raise the level of economic activity, as measured by GDP, which is the relevant measure for macroeconomic and fiscal policy. So, if the settings were about right before, it makes sense to pay for the rebuilding now, through a once-off levy, so that the net macroeconomic impact is approximately neutral.
On the other hand, the government should not seek to offset the loss in revenue associated with lost output and profits during the flood, or from flood relief expenditure. This should be concentrated in 2010-2011, and therefore should not affect the timetable for return to surplus very much. I assume (but am not absolutely certain) that the government has accepted this.
Another bonus is that the appalling “cash for clunkers” scheme is dead for good. I won’t count this as an actual saving, since it seemed unlikely ever to happen, but it’s good to have this confirmed.