O Caoláin calls on Cowen to be bold and imaginative and use budget to significantly help those families struggling to survive
Sinn Féin Dáil Group leader and Finance spokesperson Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin TD has called on the Minister for Finance Brian Cowen to be bold and imaginative and to use tomorrow’s budget to support workers and small businesses, take senior citizens and those reliant on social welfare out of poverty and immediately increase investment in health. He said “The government has the resources to bring forward measures to make a real, immediate and significant impact on the lives of those currently struggling to survive.”
The Cavan-Monaghan TD said: “For more than a decade now the government has had massive resources at its disposal to transform our health and education systems, to provide housing at an affordable level and to take senior citizens and those on low incomes out of poverty. In the last five years it has had exchequer surpluses of almost €40 billion and in November alone took in €1.7 billion more in taxes than expected.
“But the fact is that despite having higher incomes, the quality of life for many people has gotten worse. The gap between rich and poor has widened with those reliant on social welfare and the minimum wage hit hardest by rising costs. Many families, even those with two incomes, are struggling to get by due to crippling mortgages and increases in essential items such as electricity, gas and food, which are far in excess of inflation. And there are huge problems across our public services, particularly in healthcare and education provision.
“I am calling on Minister Cowen to be bold and imaginative, and to use tomorrow’s budget to make a real, immediate and significant impact on the lives of those currently struggling to survive.
“Tomorrow the government is considering reducing the top rate of tax from 42% to 40%. The cost of this to the Exchequer would be about €457 million. For roughly the same money the Minister could go a long way to alleviating the poverty faced by tens of thousands of senior citizens, ensure that all those on the average industrial wage continue to pay tax at the 20% rate and substantially increase child dependent allowance, which has not been increased in ten years. These are all initiatives, which would have an immediate and significant impact on peoples’ lives. The government has the resources to deliver. Tomorrow will tell us whether they have the political will.
“Sinn Féin is calling on the Minister to:
- Increase the minimum wage to €9.30 and keep all those on this increased wage out of the tax net
- Keep all those on the average industrial wage within the standard rate tax band of 20% for 2007.
- Increase the state pension by €34.80, double the living alone allowance to €15.40 and increase the fuel allowance to €25.
- Extend medical card eligibility to all under 18 and to all those on average and low incomes
- Increase maximum Mortgage Interest Relief available for first time buyers on or below the average industrial wage from €800 to €1200 for single people and from €1600-€2400 for married/widowed people
- Increase child dependent allowance to €30 for all recipients
- Introduce universal pre-school of 3.5 hours per day, five days a week for all children in the year before they go to school
- Reverse recent ESB hikes.”