After reaching quorum in the Chamber of Deputies, the Unión por la Patria caucus has obtained approval of its bill to reform income tax by eliminating its fourth category as from next year.
After several hours of debate, the measure was sanctioned with the support of 135 deputies adhering to Frente de Todos, provincial parties, the far left and libertarians, among others, with 103 votes against, mostly Juntos por el Cambio. Apart from government deputies, the bill was supported by libertarians, the far left and provincial parties.
Economy Minister Sergio Massa awaited the vote from inside Congress, seated in the balconies alongside CGT labour leaders Héctor Daer, Pablo Moyano and Carlos Acuña, whom he embraced when victory was sealed with the vote after 9.30pm. Militants from the CGT umbrella union groping mobilised outside Congress to accompany the debate and support the bill, which now passes to the Senate.
"All you need to know is that from here until the end of the year you will not be paying income tax because of this decree. Everybody is exempt up to 1.77 million pesos," Massa, presidential candidate for the ruling coalition, later told the C5N television news channel.
"There was plenty of confusion in the Juntos por el Cambio caucus. In their government they said that they were going to eliminate the tax and the workers ended up paying double. They had an opportunity to redeem themselves. The stance of La Libertad Avanza was more genuine, understanding it as a tax cut and accompanying it," he added.
The Senate is poised to move forward with the income tax reform bill on Thursday after its Chamber of Deputies approval with a meeting of its Budget Committee scheduled for 3pm. For now the agenda is limited to the review of mortgage legislation but could reportedly be expanded to include the income tax reform.
During the debate there was a crossfire of accusations between the government benches and Juntos por el Cambio,and between the latter and the libertarians. In the closing stages harsh rhetoric from Mario Negri (Radical-Córdoba) against Massa and the trade unions was met with catcalls.
Frente de Todos caucus chief Germán Martínez (Peronist-Santa Fe) affirmed: "Today we have the enormous opportunity of 800,000 workers being freed from income tax and this is no coincidence, it is the result of a political decision."
Negri stated: "That almost the entire political spectrum from the left to the far right should be supporting the bill of a minister-candidate who has doubled inflation in the past year is striking. Juntos por el Cambio does not go in for electoral speculation when there are serious risks of hyperinflation."
Opposition deputy Luciano Laspina (PRO-Santa Fe) criticised the measure as "electioneering," defining the Massa election campaign as "the most expensive in the world," in reference to its fiscal cost while also affirming the volume of money being printed is placing the country on course for "hyperinflation."
Juntos por el Cambio deputy Fernando Iglesias (PRO-City) raised the temperature in Congress when he harshly criticised the trade unionists following the debate, which earned him a rebuke from not only Germán Martínez but also his opposition colleague Juan Manuel López (Civic Coalition-Buenos Aires Province).
Until then the speeches, while often critical with some crossfire and cheap shots, had been unfolding within the normal channels until Iglesias decided to say: "The trade union caste, which does not represent workers but Peronism, has transformed itself into the Peronist caste, which is running this country into the ground," immediately triggering whistles and boos from the trade unionists observing the debate from the balconies and from government deputies on the House floor.
In turn, La Libertad Avanza deputy and presidential candidate Javier Milei anticipated his vote in favour by saying: "Taxation is theft and any initiative to lower it will find me in agreement."
"Taxes are a leftover from slavery and to cut them is to restore liberty to the citizenry. It is uncommonly delirious to regard wages as profit, that’s filthy and must be eliminated," insisted the libertarian.
Milei also took pot shots at Juntos por el Cambio, which he dubbed "the yellow opposition," for not supporting the income tax bill due to its fiscal cost while in the past accompanying initiatives to regulate rents and supermarket shelves or the nationalisation of YPF oil.
The libertarian economist dozed off in his bench before joining the income tax debate. The image of the deputy with his head leaning to one side and with his eyes completely closed was captured on film and rapidly became viral.
Leftist deputy and presidential candidate Myriam Bregman ( Frente de Izquierda-City) concurred that "wages are not profit " to justify her support for the government bill to amend income tax while questioning the opposition for resisting the initiative by saying: "When it comes to working-class pockets, they are suddenly seized by an urge to look after state coffers."
The bill was also backed by four Radical supporters of Senator Martín Lousteau (Emiliano Yacobitti, Dania Tavela, Marcela Antola and Gabriela Brouwer de Koning) as well as by the Patagonian governors-elect Claudio Vidal (Santa Cruz) and Rolando Figueroa (Neuquén).
Apart from Juntos por el Cambio, quorum was also resisted by the Córdoba Peronist deputies Carlos Gutiérrez and Ignacio García Aresca as well as Córdoba Governor Juan Schiaretti’s running-mate Florencio Randazzo (Buenos Aires Province), the Santa Fe Socialists Mónica Fein and Enrique Estévez and the Río Negro deputies Agustín Domingo and Luis Di Giacomo.