Fine Gael will prioritise tax cuts for middle-income earners for October’s budget, Leo Varadkar has told the party’s TDs and senators.
At a special meeting to discuss the party’s approach to the budget a briefing document, seen by the Irish Examiner, was circulated outlining the measures Fine Gael will take to address the cost of living crisis.
The Draft Fine Gael Messaging — Budget 2023 document notes “everyone is feeling the squeeze” adding that the party knows “you are working hard for you and your family”. The six key areas where Fine Gael will lobby for spending to be focused are: Reducing the cost of childcare; reducing student fees; building more homes and retaining the first-time buyers grant of up to €30,000; keeping excises on petrol and diesel low and “cutting rail and bus fares permanently”; increasing payments for pensions, carers, those with disabilities and “the vulnerable” and widening the free GP care scheme and reducing the cost of medicines. The document said these can be achieved at the same time as reducing income tax to allow people to keep more of “your hard-earned pay rise”. “The average person working full-time in Ireland earns more than €40,000 a year. They stand to lose 52% of any pay increase they get in income tax, USC and PRSI,” the document reads. “That’s not fair. We want to make sure working people and middle-income earners get to keep most of any pay increase they get. “The average two-income couple, both working full-time, pays €800 a year less in income tax than they would if Sinn Féin had done the last budget.” Most representatives who were present at the meeting spoke, with many noting the cost of childcare. Sources confirmed that Senator Regina Doherty called for the top tax band to be moved to €50,000 over next four years to allow for people to have more take home pay, as well as the need to make childcare subsidies universal.
Regina Doherty called for the top tax band be moved to €50,000. Picture: Sam Boal/RollingNews.ie It's understood TD Emer Higgins called for hospital waiting lists to be tackled as well as an expansion of disability services. At the same time, the Dáil debated a Sinn Féin Private Members Bill calling for an emergency budget. The Government rejected the motion as populist, with Junior Minister Sean Fleming repeating that the Government would not be forced into any new measures before the budget in October. “We must return our public finances to a sustainable trajectory,” he said. “I don't think anybody objects to that. We know that people are struggling. We have acted numerous times throughout this year so far. “When you take into account the budget measures most of which came in earlier this year, and the income tax and social welfare packages, we provided almost €2.4m in support to assist those dealing with the cost of living challenge. This support has been particularly targeted at helping the most vulnerable.” Sinn Féin TD Mairead Farrell said the Government “needs to understand that when families literally can't put food on their table, then we need to do something”. “We understand that you can't control the price of commodities. We understand that you can't control what happens in a war zone. But you can control what happens here. You can change the rate of excise duty, you can increase cost of living payments, you can put a month's rent back into renters pockets.”