Dáil passes property tax legislation
The controversial property tax legislation passed all stages in the Dáil late last night by a comfortable majority amid bitter exchanges about the impact of the levy.
TDs backed the Finance (Local Property Tax) Bill by 85 votes to 47. None of the close to 100 amendments put forward by the Opposition was accepted but Minister for Finance Michael Noonan said a number of them could be considered in the Finance Bill, which would give effect to proposals in the Budget.
There was sharp criticism of the guillotining of the legislation, described by Fianna Fáil finance spokesman Michael McGrath as “one of the most important Bills this House will discuss”. He condemned the less than three hours available to debate 88 Committee Stage amendments before the Bill was “rammed through the House”.
There were bitter exchanges about the impact of the tax on families in mortgage distress and warnings of potential cases of suicide because of the “tipping point” pressure it would place on householders already in extreme financial difficulty.
Independent Wicklow TD Stephen Donnelly asked what the Minister would say to those who did not have money to feed their children. “What will he tell those who walk into our constituency offices - and I am sure the Minister's also - and say they have suicidal thoughts or their children are hungry?”
During a row over whether the tax would fund local services, Mr Noonan said in the first year 65 per cent of funding would go to local authorities, while administrative measures were put in place. Over the space of a “couple of years” the total amount would be used by local authorities, he insisted.
The Minister added that the local authorities elected in 2014 would have the discretion of “plus or minus 15 per cent on the rate of the tax”.
He insisted he would not tax work because fewer jobs would be created. Mr Noonan said the money would come from property owners and hitting out at Socialist Party TD Joe Higgins who refused to pay the household charge, Mr Noonan said “this time he will pay because it will be taken off him if he does not”, but Mr Higgins said the money was for bondholders.
The Minister said “everybody should pay. At the end of the day everybody should make a small contribution. This is fairness.”
Hitting out at United Left Alliance TDs who predicted a major campaign against the charge, Mr Noonan said “I do not think they will get a big crowd of revolutionaries rallying behind the banner of opposing property taxes. This was never a great slogan for the left.”