“In the Assembly, we must not confuse compromise and slippage”

Posted Jul 27, 2022, 6:00 AM

What conclusions do you draw from the examination of this amending finance bill (PLFR), slower than imagined by the majority, even though it is a question of passing new expenditure?

The main thing is that we will have voted an additional 20 billion euros for the purchasing power of the French and that we will respect our trajectory and our red line, with a public deficit at 5% of GDP. Yes, there are amendments that we would not necessarily have voted for, but there were also many compromises which illustrate our new method. We can cite the “deconjugation” of the disabled adult allowance, the monetization of the RTT, the increase in the tax exemption ceiling for overtime, the compensation for increases in expenditure by local authorities or even the increase in the thresholds of the fuel package and of the sustainable mobility package.

There have been a lot of advances and that is very good. We were not beaten on catastrophic measures for the state budget. And yet, attempts have not been lacking, with amendments which represented an additional 100 billion euros in the first part of the amending finance bill. In the “credits” part, the requests of La France insoumise represented 70 billion!

These are scary orders of magnitude and, on many votes, it put the budget at risk. But I remember that a majority was built to move forward on many subjects.

We have witnessed spectacle politics and budgetary escalation

Should we work differently on the amendments? Didn’t certain topics covered have their place in the fall budget texts?

There has sometimes been a diversion of the budgetary procedure. A number of issues raised by LFI in particular are not covered by an amending budget law or an emergency law for purchasing power. This led to a zapping: essential subjects, such as hospitals or the number of firefighters, were pushed by amendments and therefore tackled in two minutes each time. Normally, these questions are addressed during the weeks of hearings and debates in the fall. We have witnessed spectacle politics and budgetary escalation.

But isn’t it a good thing that “Parliament is back”, as the oppositions say?

Of course and I assume it. The French sent us a message. There is a more diverse Assembly and that is good. This brings us to compromises and that is fine. But we must not confuse compromise with slippage.

On aid for heating oil, an LR amendment to 230 million euros was adopted against the opinion of the presidential majority precisely. What sequel are you planning?

It’s an interesting example. We ourselves have recognized a “hole in the racket”. The basis of our policy is that the French quickly replace their oil-fired boilers. A lot of help is provided to do this. But it is true that this does not cover those who are still equipped and whom we want to help. The question is to find the right level of compromise. How far can we help them while respecting our deficit objective, which guarantees our independence, our credibility and also control of the cost of debt?

The oppositions have been one-upmanship. The 230 million was voted leading to a reduction of 230 million credits allocated to the policy of the city… I hope that in the shuttle with the Senate, we will land on a balanced proposal.

After Monday’s debate, where are we with the overruns compared to the 20 billion provided for by Bercy in this amending budget?

We have 20 million in tax costs linked to the increase in the ceiling for restaurant tickets, 15 million in aid for service stations in rural areas, 15 million for food aid, 3 million for ADMR [réseau associatif de services à la personne en milieu rural, NDLR]. Added to this are the 180 million in compensation for the municipalities most affected by the rise in energy prices and the index point for civil servants and the 120 million for the departments, in order to compensate for the revaluation of the solidarity income active (RSA).

This amendment to 120 million is not the most chiselled we have seen! It’s a shame not to target the departments most in difficulty, via a solidarity fund. Especially when we know that in reality, the cost of the RSA should, overall, decrease by 5% this year. I hope that during the examination in the Senate, this can be improved. This is an important point of discussion.

A sizeable compromise was found on the fuel rebate for all, to the detriment of the targeted cheque. Do you really believe that it will be possible to reduce this discount at the end of the year?

Indeed, this is based on the assumption of an eventual fall in the price of a barrel of oil. There remains uncertainty. I would just say that with the economic slowdown, it is not unrealistic to anticipate a drop in prices. This is also consistent with inflation projections. We will take stock of the evolution of fuel prices at the end of the year.

Could the taxation of oil tanker profits also come back into the public debate?

Of course, the subject will come back. We defend fiscal stability and a logic where three levers combine to lower prices at the pump. The first is state support, but it cannot last forever. The second comes from companies vis-à-vis their employees. To this end, we have increased the thresholds for the fuel bonus and the sustainable mobility package, and made the two schemes cumulative. Companies must use this lever more to help their employees. Finally, Bruno Le Maire and our majority put pressure on the producers. Total responded.

Do you fear a real deadlock on the Finance Bill for 2023 this fall?

Everything is much longer and there are more groups in the Assembly. How can this situation be made compatible with a finance bill? Many said it would be impossible to find a majority on purchasing power and the amending budget, but we did. The compromise is made amendment by amendment. What this budgetary debate will have shown is that we cannot find a compromise in twenty-four hours. It takes time to build them with our oppositions and our majority.

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