“We do not want to and will not delay the implementation – instead, we will remove all obstacles overnight and mark the project as mandatory for completion by the end of 2027. And since we, the people from Koroška, are not the Sheriff of Ljubljana, whom all ruling politics forgives everything and bows down to him in spite of his many violations of the law and the Constitution of the Republic of Slovenia, we simply cannot afford to do what he has done. Dear Golob, we in Koroška do not accept that the machines on the construction site of the third development axis are humming when the cameras come, and we do not accept new delays in timetables, and we do not accept that you are taking money away from the development of the rest of Slovenia to pay off those who put you in power,” said MP Helbl to Golob.
On Monday afternoon, the National Assembly held a session where MPs posed questions to Prime Minister Robert Golob. The first question was posed by Jernej Vrtovec, an MP from the New Slovenia party (Nova Slovenija – NSi), and his question was about tax reform. “The tax reform is the foundation of everything… At the coalition summit, it was said that as of the 1st of January 2024, wages would be tax-free, so that taxpayers would have more money in their wallets, which is the right thing to do. At the same time, it was said that from the 1st of January 2025 onwards, Christmas bonuses and the vacation allowance would be additionally taxed, and progressive taxation of property would be introduced,” Mr Vrtovec also recalled that a big twist happened after the announcement tax reform, when it was no longer known whether there would actually be a tax reform or not. The government side made excuses and blamed this on its communication failures. In this context, Mr Vrtovec was particularly interested in how to ensure a fiscally predictable environment and whether they could afford for the tax reform to not to be implemented, especially in the face of rising expenditure in the state budget.
“In the last six months alone, we have spent around 600 million euros on public sector wages (adjusting for inflation, planned reforms, etc.). The key question is this: how can we ensure that we have the funds in our budget for this without a tax reform? My view, and that of the NSi party, is that we can raise more money for the state budget by lowering the tax burden on wages. I would like to know what the opinion of the coalition is.” Mr Vrtovec was also interested in the timeline of the 1st of January 2024 and the 1st of January 2025 and what the coalition plans to do about the tax reform. Golob’s response to this question was: “The tax reform has to be considered in a broader context. It was never meant to fill the budget. And I reject that part of it completely.” He continued to try and defend himself with the claims that analyses have also shown that they don’t have much room for manoeuvre. He also shared some “indisputable facts.” However, Slovenia today ranks second in Europe in labour taxation, with Slovakia in the first place.
Slovenia also has the highest social contributions burden among European countries, and Golob believes that this part needs to be refreshed. And it is this “targeted refresh” that the government intends to work on. At the same time, Slovenia ranks 22nd in Europe in terms of property taxation. As he explained, the proposals to tackle this area were not coherent and ripe for public debate, so the tax reform they initially presented will not be implemented. This is precisely why the tax reform was not at the forefront of the meeting. He said that the whole of Europe was preparing for a new fiscal year and for the preparation of the Stability and Growth Pact. After three years of exceptions, when it was possible to finance the state budget through excessive borrowing, these exceptions are being abolished, he said. The Stability and Growth Pact, which will be presented to the Members of the National Assembly at their April meeting, will define the precise question – how Slovenia will ensure the sustainability of its public finances.
“We will sue all those who are blocking the third development axis project!”
Golob announced that the document will not mention tax reform as a source of ensuring stability, but all other measures will be listed, and fiscal sustainability will have to be taken into account. This will include the possibility of a deficit of less than three hundred percent a year, while reducing debt, on average by one percentage point. Vrtovec recalled that the key is to relieve the tax burden on wages, so that people will have more money and will consequently also spend more, and thus more taxes will be collected. He pointed out that Slovenia is at the top of the OECD rankings in terms of wage taxation. However, the economy will breathe a sigh of relief if the tax reform is abandoned. The next question was posed by MP Alenka Helbl, who raised the issue of the shifting timetables under the current government. This is particularly true of the construction of the third development axis, which would link the region of Koroška with the region of Bela Krajina and the two regions with the rest of Slovenia, and which is the second most important project in the country.
She recalled that the Ministry of Infrastructure and the Motorway Company of the Republic of Slovenia (Družba za avtoceste v Republiki Sloveniji – DARS) will shortly present a revised timeline for delaying the construction of the third development axis. She stressed that the people from Koroška will sue all those who are holding up the third developmental axis project. “We do not want to and will not delay the implementation – instead, we will remove all obstacles overnight and mark the project as mandatory for completion by the end of 2027. And since we, the people from Koroška, are not the Sheriff of Ljubljana, whom all ruling politics forgives everything and bows down to him in spite of his many violations of the law and the Constitution of the Republic of Slovenia, we simply cannot afford to do what he has done. Dear Golob, we in Koroška do not accept that the machines on the construction site of the third development axis are humming when the cameras come, and we do not accept new delays in timetables, and we do not accept that you are taking money away from the development of the rest of Slovenia to pay off those who put you in power,” Helbl was critical.
They also do not agree with an inter-ministerial working group led by a “failed politician who has been given a job” (Andrej Rajh, the Party of Alenka Bratušek). NSi MP Aleksander Reberšek was also very critical of the government, saying: “What you are doing is populism. You are adopting some monkeys, chimpanzees, jumping around Africa. This is populism. It is not populism that someone fights for clean drinking water and sends a clear message to the Prime Minister to stop this project! It is fighting for our successors to drink the same clean drinking water that we have been drinking. We did not inherit it from our ancestors, we borrowed it from our descendants! And we must act responsibly in this direction!” He symbolically presented the Prime Minister with a bottle of clean drinking water.