Maharashtra’s 2017-18 budget, to be tabled on Saturday, will likely focus on non-tax revenues such as land monetisation and state-related fees and levies. With the Goods and Services Tax (GST) Bill expected to be implemented in July, newer taxes and tax hikes are unlikely to be on the agenda. State finance minister Sudhir Mungantiwar indicated as much on Thursday when he said the government will be looking at ways to generate funds from non-tax revenues.
“Why would we want to hike taxes and earn brickbats when GST is likely to be implemented across the country soon?” he said.
A look at what can be expected from the state budget.
No new taxes or big hikes
The budget may not burn a big hole in your pocket with the GST Bill expected to be implemented across the country from this July. But, other levies and fees may see a hike. There could also be an effort to broaden the tax net and offer an amnesty scheme to collect pending sales tax. The finance minister has indicated that he will not hike taxes in a big way or introduce new ones just for three months. The state’s focus will now be on non-tax revenues like monetising land or hiking state levies and fees like court fee, parking challans, and so on.
Focus on farmers
For a second year in the row, the state budget will revolve around the agrarian crisis and could have maximum allocation for farmers. This will be done by putting together funds set aside for schemes across departments like irrigation, water conservation, and marketing. New schemes and subsidies may get announced for this sector given that there is pressure on the government to announce a loan waiver.
Debt to increase, revenue deficit likely
The state is unlikely to meet its revenue targets with the slump in the housing sector hitting the expected income from stamp duty and registrations. The revenue from sales tax, which brings home the largest chunk of funds at over Rs 70,000 crore, may also fall short of the target. As a result, a revenue deficit budget is a given. The debt of the state is the highest in the country at Rs 3.56 lakh crore, and is also expected to increase in absolute figures. The government, though, maintains that its ratio vis-à-vis the Gross State Domestic Product will come down to 16%, within the Centre’s parameters.
Measures for fiscal prudence
The state government is hoping to cut back on wasteful expenditure by shaving off existing schemes that are redundant. There are over 17,000 schemes currently, many of which may get cut. The state’s finance department has already saved Rs 5,000 crore by simply not clearing bills post February 1 that they claim are often cleared in haste. The utilisation of last year’s budget itself has been below 55%.
Infrastructure to get a boost
Followed by agriculture, the state will focus on infrastructure by allocating funds for irrigation and the public works department. There will also be an attempt at wooing youngsters through skill development and training schemes to reduce stress on agriculture.