In no particular order.
The Herald Editorial compares the parties:
There has been a striking contrast in the response of the two main parties to the disturbing news that after 14 years of budget surpluses the Treasury now calculates the public accounts are set for a decade of deficits. …
Finance Minister Michael Cullen merely congratulated himself again on having saved previous surpluses for a “rainy day” and looked forward to the problems it would cause for National’s intended tax cuts.
There was evidently nothing he thought necessary to change, either in his own programme of reluctant tax cuts that started this month or in the Government’s spending programmes that might have seemed affordable in better times. If Labour’s “rainy day” could last 10 years, as the Treasury forecasts, Dr Cullen and his colleagues seemed strangely relaxed about it.
In other words Labour has no plan at all.
The fiscal crisis is indeed the first real test of the mettle of leader John Key and his team and it is rare that voters get such a measure before an election.
National could have taken the easy option of confirming its previously indicated tax cuts, offering no specific savings in public expenditure and pretending that tax cuts would actually cure the deficit in quick time. Conservative parties are prone to that belief.
Instead, National has faced the need to balance its tax cuts with specified savings, notably the removal of business tax breaks on research and development and employer contributions to KiwiSaver. The wisdom of reducing the incentives to save is questionable but the courage is not.
And National is willing to take the hard decisions, and not pretend that the decade of deficits is acceptable.
National has risked alienating people who have embraced KiwiSaver, as the party goes into the election with a tax-cut package that would leave more money in the pockets of most earners – but takes away two business tax breaks to pay for it.
Mary Holm says the changes improve KiwiSaver:
The National Party’s proposed changes to KiwiSaver would considerably reduce two of the biggest gripes about the scheme – that some people can’t afford it and that it ties up savings. …
The contributions of anyone earning less than $52,150 would be tripled by employer and government input. And that means three times bigger retirement savings. …
The reduction of the minimum employee contribution from 4 per cent to 2 per cent of pay means it would be easier to afford KiwiSaver, especially after taking tax cuts into account.
John Armstrong says it is a bit of a fizzer:
The door banged shut in Labour’s face following Monday’s mind-numbingly pessimistic economic forecasts. Labour can thank National’s underwhelming tax package for reopening it at least slightly.
Colin Espiner reports on a snap poll:
A snap poll for The Press yesterday showed National may have pitched the package about right.
The poll of 212 people by Futurescape Global found 43% felt the tax cuts matched their expectations, with 34% feeling it fell short. A slim majority of those polled felt the country could afford National’s package, but people were split over whether they were confident in National’s ability to manage the economic crisis, while 55% said the tax package had not altered their vote. The poll has a margin of error of 6.7%.
Brian Fallow sees a shortage of growth:
National claims its tax package will stimulate the economy in the short term and improve incentives and drive growth in the longer term.
The first claim is plausible, the second not so much.
Reducing the top tax rate faster will be better for growth long term, but quite simply the money was no longer there.
James Weir in the Dom Post surveys business opinion:
Business New Zealand also disagreed “pretty seriously” with the decision to drop R&D tax credits but said the planned tax cuts and target to cut personal tax rates to 33 per cent over time rated a “seven out of 10” score overall.
The Press editorial is positive:
Even if tax cuts were not on the agenda, there is a case to argue that the levels set for KiwiSaver were too ambitious from the start. As it stands, some young people entering the scheme and earning the average wage throughout their working lives could end up earning more in retirement, when their National Super entitlements were added to their KiwiSaver earnings, than they did in their lifetime.
Yep, and that is daft. The 4%/4% KiwiSaver forced people on the average wage to save too much, taking money they need during their working life.
Clark has said this election will be one of trust. If this is so, then the question for voters will be who do you trust in the turbulent world we now face? With these tax cuts, and with some detail of its longer-term economic plans, National has placed its cards on the table. It has produced figures to show that its plans are fiscally responsible. Voters must decide whether Key and his colleagues can be trusted to deliver on them, or whether Labour can be trusted to manage difficult times as well as good ones.
Will Labour produce a plan? Or is Labour saying it will run a decade of deficits and not make any changes to tax rates or spending?
Tracy Watkins blogs:
A year ago, Key might have risked over promising and under delivering on those amounts.
But that was a vastly different world..
The failure to deliver more may peel off some soft support among those who were leaning toward National but, because of Working for Families, will not be a whole lot better off.
But the rest will probably agree with Key that it’s a package that’s right for the times.
So is it enough? You’d have to say yes.
And finally NZPA reports that least surprising news of all – that unions and political rivals don’t like it. Some get their facts wrong:
United Future leader Peter Dunne, who is minister of revenue, said it was complicated and would be difficult to administer.
“Superannuitants and low income earners are the big losers,” he said.
Bzzt. Wrong. By 2011 superannuitant couples will get $15 a fortnight more.