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Budget Statement 2019 (Continued)

Tuesday, 9 October 2018

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 973 No. 2

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(Speaker Continuing)

[Deputy Pearse Doherty: Information on Pearse Doherty Zoom on Pearse Doherty] However, budget 2019 has fallen short in this regard. Booming banks and vulture funds have more backing from the Government than the renters whose wages continue to fill the bulging pockets of landlords. As the Minister presents this budget, this is the real story of Irish society and the people who will not have the benefit of what the Minister has announced today. Seo de bharr an cleas a bhí á imirt ag Fine Gael agus ag na haicmí polaitíochta agus é fós atá á imirt acu. Most citizens know this story only too well. We have a cost of living crisis that has made it impossible for countless families to make ends meet or plan for their future. I can only deduce that this is simply because the Government does not understand. It has had seven budgets over seven years, with three in lockstep with Fianna Fáil. What has changed for young people and those without a stake in society? Young people today still cannot aspire to have what their parents had before them. They tell us all the time the rental pressures are taking every last disposable penny from them. They tell us they can never aspire to own their own homes in the capital but there are no significant measures in the budget to address this section of society.

  Cha dtuigeann tú an anró atá ag baint leis an rogha atá le déanamh ag daoine agus iad idir dhá chomhairle faoi cé acu an íocfaidh siad as an chuairt doctúra nó an íocfaidh siad as na hearraí grósaera don seachtain. Ní thuigeann tú an imní atá ar dhaoine nuair atá an carr le tabhairt don mheicneoir nó nuair atá an éide scoile le deisiú. This is the problem. The Government rules as a minority for a minority and this is its budget. It is an insult to the struggling majority, who see little in today's budget for themselves.

   It is a budget for landlords and there is no doubt about that. The Minister has ticked that box and I am sure Fianna Fáil had its fingerprints all over it. It is a budget for banks. They will keep their tax holiday and will not pay a penny in tax for the next 20 years. It is a budget for the status quo, which has outright failed the people of Ireland. No further proof is needed than the minimum wage proposal presented today. Irish workers get up early and put in a hard day's graft for wages that should cover the basic cost of living day to day. This is a very simple proposal but despite the fact these are the wealth creators in society the Minister has given them nothing to lift their worry and help them pay their bills. There has been an increase of 25 cent in the minimum wage. These workers deserve at least three times what Government is proposing. They should have been looking forward to a pay rise of about €1,500 next year under Sinn Féin's proposals. Instead, what they face next year is financial hardship every bit as stifling as it was the year before.

  Civil Service and public sector workers will also have to wait for a living wage, which the Government still has not delivered for them. People in our public services provide the services on which people depend and they are still not provided with a living wage. They are also waiting for the right to basic pay equality. The Government continues to stand over a reprehensible policy of paying public sector workers less for the exact same work as their colleagues. Perhaps the Minister will tell me why some of these public sector workers will have to wait until 2025 to have this basic right recognised, while he and his Fine Gael colleagues will enjoy a cosy pay rise over the coming weeks.

  Over the past four budgets, the Minister has taken more than €2 billion out of the income tax base while creating crisis after crisis in our public services. He removed €2 billion from USC and income taxes at a time when we have 707,000 people on hospital waiting lists, hundreds of patients on hospital trolleys needing medical care, who were admitted to a hospital where there is no bed for them to lie in, and 10,000 people, including 4,000 children, in emergency accommodation.

  Today, the Minister announced cuts of another €284 million, compared to the €80 million of resources additional to the national development plan for housing. This sums up the priority of Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael. Perhaps Deputy Michael McGrath might tell us how this is a housing budget. How can this be a housing budget when only €80 million is provided while the 18% of highest income earners in the State get a €130 million tax deduction. These are the bankrupt policies of Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael. No matter what way it is dressed up the people are not fools. They see through it. The Government will deliver just over 400 additional social houses in 2019. It is pathetic in terms of the scale of the crisis we have in housing at present. The Minister's job is to keep the base happy, tick the boxes to try to buy silence and hope people will turn a blind eye to the crises unfolding before them, whether in housing, the cost of living or the health sector. Token tax cuts will not lower the cost of living for the overwhelming majority of families today. They will not make it cheaper to rent or buy a home. They will not give peace of mind when sending their children to childcare, which now costs a second mortgage.

  We have been here before. A clamber for tax cuts driven by certain sectors left us exposed and vulnerable in the past. The Minister thinks we can afford it because corporation tax receipts are increasing. Replace corporation tax with stamp duty and we are back to 2007. No matter how many times the Minister says this is prudent, responsible and not whittling out the tax base what he is doing is crazy. It is absolutely daft that he is repeating the mistakes Charlie McCreevy made during the boom. He should not be whittling out the most sustainable tax we have and instead basing the budget on fleeting corporation tax receipts.

  Promising tax cuts to the base to keep it happy, undermining our public finances, and running our public services into the ground are the mantras. The Minister and his party have long been spreading fear about tax in our society, taxes on which society itself depends. This is fear mongering and Sinn Féin rejects it out of hand. The Minister is incapable of taking on the issue of high wealth individuals and their tax responsibilities. There are more millionaires and billionaires in the State than ever before while more and more people continue to suffer from week to week. The recent report by the Comptroller and Auditor General made clear just how easy it is to avoid tax in Ireland if people have the wealth to do so. The Comptroller and Auditor General stated that the 140 high net worth individuals, who have assets in excess of €50 million, had taxable income of less than €125,000. It gets worse. Of these, 83 had taxable income of less than the average industrial wage. They were paying more to their tax advisers than to the Revenue Commissioners. They pay a lower rate than somebody working in a supermarket or hairdressers. It is an absolute scandal and there was not a dicky bird today from the Minister to deal with the fact this is happening under his watch. It is the Minister's job to make these people pay their fair share but he does not seem interested in doing so.

  Tá bród orm mar urlabhraí airgeadais Shinn Féin agus ar mo pháirtí, gur thig linn a rá go léireodh muid dea-rialachas ó thaobh beartais cánachais, agus go gcuirfeadh muid deireadh leis an ionsaí atá á dhéanamh ag an rialtas seo ar sheirbhísí poiblí. Sinn Féin, and I as its finance spokesperson, are proud to be a party that says we will tax fairly and sensibly and bring this Government’s attack on public services to an end. The Government cannot have it both ways. It cannot have a low tax economy while at the same time have decent public services. We have made it very clear that 99% of the population will not see an increase in their tax rates. The budget means a 45% tax on income of more than €140,000. This is the tax on the 1%. Yes, it includes the Minister but there is no reason income cannot be generated from this source of revenue to deal with some of the crises the State is facing.

  The other revenue raising measures introduced or updated today, including VAT changes and gambling duty, are fundamentally needed and are to be welcomed. I will sound a point of caution on some of these. They are needed because the Government has increasingly allowed our tax base to be built on sand. This cycle repeats itself every budget time. The increase of 2% proposed by the Minister on betting tax is the worst move possible in my view.

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