HUNTER residents hit with recent cost of living rises likely know all about budgets. For almost every household, some part of it has likely started eating more of the income than it did a year ago.
With the state government about to hand down its budget today, it's perhaps fitting that Committee for the Hunter CEO Alice Thompson talks about "crumbs" that could make a big difference in this region.
Sadly, the priorities flagged by leaders ahead of last year's fiscal blueprint remain salient as ever.
While many highlights have already emerged, including $55 million for Hunter health services revealed in this newspaper on Monday, the full picture of NSW Treasurer Matt Kean's first budget will be eagerly awaited by a region with a wishlist that remains stubbornly long.
Obviously energy initiatives, a 2021 hope, are more important than ever amid firm dates for the end of Mt Arthur and Eraring, and with the present energy market in disarray.
Housing announcements in recent days - both with an equity scheme that mirrors the federal Labor government's model and $500 million announced on Tuesday to help unlock shovel-ready projects sooner - are promising steps for this region.
What is clear, however, is that there is plenty to be done.
Bus drivers in Newcastle were on Monday the latest in a series of workers to walk off the job over pay disputes. Maitland's gleaming new hospital is riven with reports of understaffing forcing delays.
State government opposition to a Newcastle container terminal appears to have been a factor in a pre-election announcement from the former Liberal government ending up on the scraphead, keeping that crucial project and asset in limbo.
That is not to mention COVID-19's ongoing costs and pressures.
With a looming energy transition likely to strike at industries prevalent in the Hunter, the region requires urgent attention from leaders before the shift becomes a sharp, painful turn.
An election looms, but history may be the more important judge of this budget.
As Business Hunter's Bob Hawes notes, it is crucial that Hunter infrastructure too long measured by the length of wait rather than time to completion is not pushed back any further.
Hopefully the region's patience will be rewarded on Tuesday with more than scraps from Sydney's table.
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