Apparently the government are going with the line that this will be the first balanced budget in years:
However, the Taoiseach suggests that the reason for this may be due to increased corporation taxes as a windfall due to a change in accounting procedures, and suggests that this windfall will not be repeated next year.
It's an interesting, if risky strategy for them, as there are no votes in a balanced budget or repaying debt, and there are massive demands for additional funding for housing and healthcare. Even with increased funding for both of these, labelling it as a balanced budget will give opposition parties an opportunity to point out that they could do more.
Sinn Fein have put forward a costed pre budget submission which would see them spending 3.5bn extra and raising taxes by 2.4bn, the largest of which would be taxing intellectual property rights which are currently tax free to raise 750bn extra per annum:
Sinn Fein don't quite say how much it will cost to build 10,000 new homes. If it is revenue neutral are they just going to implement the Government's existing plan with some modifications? They have costed 34.9m for housing, but this appears to be non house building matters such as homeless support, domestic violence shelters etc.
I would anticipate that FF will stick to their confidence and supply deal to get the budget through, but will be highly critical of the government in this budget afterwards. The strategy to be to see how the polls react to the budget and if FG drop dramatically they might end confidence and supply in favour of an election.
They have suggested that there would be 200m available for house building which is welcome, but is not nearly enough to provide the 4,000 homes they are suggesting would be built, amounting to some 50,000 per unit. Perhaps this is predicated on using existing state land to build on, but even still it sounds too small.
Further, FF are also suggesting tax reductions and increases in expenditure elsewhere.
So we have a government that is promising some small tax cuts, small expenditure increases and a balanced budget, which sounds very sensible but not very popular. Then we have a party promising large spending increases and, to be fair to them, this would be funded by increased taxes. Lastly we have a party who will in effect allow the government's budget through, but will criticse it for not providing more tax cuts and increasing spending, presumably to be based on borrowed money from the magic money tree.
Interesting times ahead.