Taoiseach Leo Varadkar has said Budget 2019 is “a responsible budget for a modern and caring Ireland that aims to be at the centre of a changing world”.
He rounded on opposition parties for putting forward budget plans which would lead to significant tax hikes on hard-working families.
During a debate on Budget 2019, Mr Varadkar said it was dispiriting that the lessons of the past have not been learned by the opposition.
“We recall the utter devastation that the crash and recession caused to people across our country,” he said. “It is deeply dispiriting that so many parties in this House have not learnt those lessons.
“The pre-budget submissions from Sinn Féin, the Greens, the Social Democrats, Labour, and People Before Profit all show that the competition on the left is to spend, spend, spend, and spend some more. And then borrow some more.”
Prudence is absent and profligacy is the order of the day, claimed Mr Varadkar, adding that it is populism rather than socialism.
When it comes to framing a budget, the Taoiseach said he and his Government believe tax increases should be thought through and the implications understood.
“We must avoid a scattergun approach with a large number of tax increases that would undermine economic confidence,” he said. “Unfortunately, appreciation of that is limited among other parties.”
The Social Democrats’ alternative budget had over €1.5bn in tax hikes in one year alone from 14 separate tax increases, he said.
Labour’s alternative budget had over €1.6bn in tax hikes from 11 separate proposals, while Sinn Féin’s proposed €2.9bn in tax hikes from over 20 plans. The Greens’ alternative budget had €3.5bn in tax hikes from 13 separate increases.
“Not to be outdone, People Before Profit goes even further, proposing €16bn in tax hikes,” said Mr Varadkar.
He hit out at Independent TD and former Labour member Tommy Broughan for his criticism of the budget.
“I think Deputy Broughan is a bit fuzzy in his recollection in talking about this being the 12th budget,” said Mr Varadkar. “It is the third of this Government involving Fine Gael and Independents under the confidence and supply agreement.
“The previous five budgets before that were Fine Gael and Labour. I think Deputy Broughan was in that coalition briefly, but I am not sure if he ever managed to vote for a budget. I certainly do not think that he ever will.”
Sinn Féin president Mary Lou McDonald criticised Mr Varadkar for standing over a “landlords’ budget”.
“In our alternative budget, Sinn Féin proposed that a three-year rent freeze for all existing and new tenancies be introduced with immediate effect and demonstrated how that could be achieved,” she said. “However, the Government and its partners in Fianna Fáil chose to ignore that proposal.”
Mr Varadkar hit out at Sinn Féin’s plans at council level, saying its members opposed a social housing project for hundreds of homes.
“The Sinn Féin plan was to provide income tax relief for people who are renting and only people who are renting,” he said. “Sinn Féin likes to talk a lot about housing, but let us look at its record.
“Only this week, on South Dublin County Council, a vote was taken to build 1,100 new homes in Kilcarbery, comprising 400 social homes for people on the housing list in Tallaght, Clondalkin, and Lucan, and 700 homes for young people who want to buy and who are currently paying more in rent than they would pay on a mortgage.
“Sinn Féin voted against this. It required Fianna Fáil, Fine Gael, and the Labour Party to vote it through.”