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Budget Statement 2018 (Continued)

Tuesday, 10 October 2017

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 960 No. 1

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(Speaker Continuing)

[Deputy Thomas P. Broughan: Information on Thomas P. Broughan Zoom on Thomas P. Broughan]  Any citizen who has read the Coffey report on corporation tax and followed the recent speeches of Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker and French President Macron knows that widening the tax net and achieving a long-term sustainable tax base is a key responsibility of Ministers and legislators here. I proposed to the Budgetary Oversight Committee that we should at least consider a third higher rate of income tax on higher incomes, for example the 180,000 tax units who earn over €100,000. A new rate of 43% - I have proposed 48% in the past - on higher incomes over €100,000 would yield nearly an additional €344 million. Of course, we need much more transparency and information on wealth and high incomes in Ireland which is why I brought forward in the last Dáil a Bill to establish a high pay and wealth commission. However, the last austerity Government decided in its wisdom to ignore that call and defeat the Bill.

I welcome the move to defer a revaluation of local property tax from 2019 and believe that should still consider a site-value tax. The economist David McWilliams has proposed the very interesting idea of a land tax. In my submission to the Minister, I asked that the vacant site levy of 3% be at least doubled. In that regard, I note the comments of my colleague, Deputy Mick Wallace, who is expert in this area. While it is welcome that the levy will increase from 3% in 2018 to 7% in 2019, the Government has taken every conceivable step to avoid forcing land hoarders to build. Other tax-widening, sustainable measures which are welcome include the sugar tax and additional taxes for health reasons on tobacco. However, there were many other measures the Minister could have taken to widen the tax net. For example, an increase in betting duty to 3% would have yielded €150 million in a full year. I have been asking for several years for an aggregates levy, such as exists in the UK and Northern Ireland, of €2.50 per tonne to improve the recycling of building materials. That would have yielded almost €80 million annually. If the Minister had abolished the special assignee relief programme, or SARP, it would have yielded approximately €10 million in 2018. I also asked the Minister this year and last year to increase the duty on shares from 1% to 1.5%, which would have yielded an additional €220 million. As Deputy Wallace said, there is a lot of money out there and, as such, the capacity existed to have had a much more innovative fiscal expansion this year. However, we have not had it.

The continuation of the 9% rate of VAT in the hospitality sector is not justified, especially in the Dublin region. We must start to equalise duty on diesel with that on petrol. Even though I drive a diesel car, I consider that we could have started this year and implemented the change over a number of years. It could bring in up to €160 million in additional funding. I remember that when Deputy Eamon Ryan and others, including me, were on Dublin City Council years ago, we all knew that the PM10 emissions from diesel made it unsustainable for health reasons in the long term. While I have always favoured higher taxes on citizens and households with very high incomes and great wealth, I agree that there is indeed a squeezed middle. As such I welcome the increase in the standard rate band for those citizens.

In conclusion, the budget is very disappointing. It is a missed opportunity and could have made much greater resources available for housing and health. It is a particularly sad day for the Independent Alliance which has been well and truly shafted by Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil and ignored by the Taoiseach and the Minister for Finance. In sectors like disability and transport, we could have done much better.

Deputy Clare Daly: Information on Clare Daly Zoom on Clare Daly My expectations for the budget were not great and I spent most of the afternoon semi-bored and disillusioned at the usual mantra. Having listened, however, to Deputy Wallace and his forensic annihilation of what the Government calls a housing strategy, I consider that it should be compulsory listening for every Minister. I challenge every Minister to come back to Deputy Wallace and answer the points he made. This country is on a hiding to nothing in the area of housing when citizens spend the overwhelming majority of their income, if they have one, to try to keep a roof over their heads and older citizens find their houses full again with adult children and grandchildren as families try desperately to save a few bob to buy a house. Others are ending up in hotel rooms and the like. It is an absolute scandal. Deputy Wallace was also correct and in no way flippant when he noted that the nation's spirits will have been lifted far more by last night's victory in soccer than by anything in this budget. When did a budget ever transform the lives of people? It is fine for the Taoiseach to stand up and say this will not be a bonanza and that we will be responsible and careful. It is good for him that he has the luxury to be careful because being careful means defending a status quo which represents a life of severe challenge for huge numbers of our citizens.

The Government may say it is great for spending €1.2 billion but that must be looked at in the context of the last three budgets which cut the tax base by €2.6 billion. As such, the Government has not even got back to where it started to cut. Nothing in this budget will address the fundamental problems in the State which are caused by the fact that we tax less and spend less than practically every other European country. We are completely out of kilter in that regard. Unless we address that, the problems faced by people will continue to occur. The Government must ask itself whether it thinks people will really be going out tonight saying it is great that they have an extra fiver. The first thing they will say is that it is not actually a fiver but is in fact €2.50 over the course of a whole year. However, that does not sound as good. Therefore, the Government decided to call it a fiver and start the payments more than halfway into the year. It is sickening. Even if it were a fiver, which it is not, €2.50 is not going to put a roof over someone's head and give them access to healthcare or a decent education. Sadly, we have missed that opportunity in this budget.

Next year marks the 100th anniversary of the election of Countess Markievicz, the second female Cabinet Minister anywhere in the world. We had a Proclamation in this State which issued a call to Irish men and Irish women yet Irish women are being left behind again in this budget. That is why I want to look from the viewpoint of a number of women and young girls in my constituency. They are not exceptional and I am sure their stories are echoed and repeated in every corner of the country. Let us talk about Zoe who is ten years of age and has a rare genetic disorder, PKU, which means her body is unable to break down certain amino acids. The only treatment for PKU is Kuvan, a drug which could vastly improve her quality of life and prevent her from potentially suffering brain damage. This drug is sanctioned and available in most European countries. In Ireland, it is not. Let us talk about her mother, Karen, who has spent years fighting a daily battle and having to tell the story of the struggle she endures to ensure her daughter has the same quality of life as other children. Let us talk about Maria, a woman in my area who has split from her partner. She is a part-time worker who looks after her son. Her former partner does not pay maintenance but she has religiously kept up the payments relating to her half of the mortgage. As she cannot pay the whole thing, however, the bank is moving against her.

Let us talk about Claire, whose mother-in-law is 58 years of age and is suffering from Alzheimer's disease. Because she is under 65 years of age, there is nothing by way of support for the family. Her husband gets three hours of help a week. She is unable to wash or dress herself and has lost her ability to focus. She cannot see people or things in front of her or read or write and she gets lost in her own house. Nevertheless, her family gets three hours help per week. Home is the best place for that woman but her family needs support to keep her there. As her daughter-in-law says, it is heartbreaking to watch a strong, independent and glamorous lady become vacant and lost. They grieve every day for the person she once was while knowing that every day she gets further away from them. How many other families are in that position while we sit within these comfortable walls?

Let us talk about Mary. She began her working life in 1966 but had to give up her job because of the marriage bar. She raised three children and went back to work at 49. At 65 years of age, she went to claim her pension but because she had worked as a younger woman, she found her PRSI stamps would be calculated over 47 years. That meant she would only get a third of her contributory pension.

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