The economy minister of the Generalitat, Andreu Mas-Colell, has announced plans to reverse the latest increase in the tax rate for high earners, once the financial situation in Catalunya has improved (read article in Castilian here, La Vanguardia). The rise was approved last June by the tripartite coalition government, some months before the November elections that saw CiU take power. Yesterday, however, the economic department had to issue a statement firmly denying that the tax cut would take place while budget restrictions were in place in Catalunya. Autonomous communities in Spain have the ability to decide regulations regarding 50 percent of income tax (IRPF), the amount that has been ceded by the central government to the regional administrations. As such, last year, then Generalitat president José Montilla oversaw two tax increases: for those earning between €120,000 and €175,000 gross a year, the income tax they pay to the Generalitat rose from 21.3 percent to 23.5 percent; while anyone earning above €175,000 saw their rate set at 25.5 percent. In addition, the Spanish government raised the level of income tax that it gathers from high earners, meaning that the latter's overall IRPF went up from 43 to 46 or 49 percent.
Spanish prime minister José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero's refusal to pay now €1,450 million that is owed to Catalunya from a competitiveness fund, and adjourning the payment until 2013 has angered Catalan politicians (read article in Catalan here, Avui). The non-compliance of Zapatero with the agreement, announced yesterday during a political meeting in Albacete, coincided with recent statements from the deputy prime minister and Spanish economy minister Elena Salgado in Washington, in which she called into question whether that amount of money would ever actually be paid. Both the governing CiU party and the opposition parties reacted with indignation to Zapatero's words. Joana Ortega, the deputy leader of CiU, said that his attitude was not very supportive and added that it was one more point of irritation in the relationship between Catalunya and Spain. She also said that the Spanish Socialists should leave to one side their electioneering and fulfil their debt with Catalunya. CiU's candidate for the post of Barcelona mayor, Xavier Trias, said that Salgado's attitude was irresponsible and called on the current mayor, Jordi Hereu, to demand the money from Spain. The leader of the Catalan section of the Partido Popular, Alicia Sánchez-Camacho, who is also a Spanish senator, called on Zapatero to pay the money and said she was considering raising the issue before the Spanish senate. Pressure is also growing on the Catalan Socialists (PSC) to raise the issue both in the Spanish congress and senate, a break in discipline within the wider Socialist community that has not been witnessed before.
Some of the toll stops on the AP-7 and AP-2 motorways will no longer be in place from today, although motorists will still have to pay to use the roads (read articles in Castilian here, El Periodico). As the result of an agreement made with the Spanish ministry of public works in 2006, Abertis, the company that manages the toll system on Catalan motorways, agreed to remove the booths that are found at different points along the AP-7 motorway to the south of Barcelona towards Tarragona and on to Valencia, and on the AP-2 road towards Zaragoza, which have meant that drivers have had to break up their journey to stop and pay for the different tolls; instead, from today, drivers will have to take a ticket when they first get on the road and then pay when they exit it, with the amount being proportional to the distance travelled. This is the same system that currently exists on the northern section of the motorway between La Roca del Vallès and La Jonquera, at the French border. As such, as of today, motorists travelling south along the AP-7 to Valencia will no longer have to stop four times but just once, at the exit, to pay to use the motorway, although the amount that will be paid is exactly the same as previously. At the moment, the booths and barriers that were used to collect the tolls will remain in place, at least until the summer.