Rapporteur signals he may present new opinion to incorporate some suggestions
Aguinaldo Ribeiro — Foto: Lula Marques/Agência Brasil
Chamber of Deputies Speaker Arthur Lira is counting votes to try and approve a tax overhaul by the end of this week. Party leaders, mayors, and governors intensified meetings on Tuesday, and Deputy Aguinaldo Ribeiro, rapporteur of the proposal, signaled that he will present a new opinion to include new suggestions he has received. According to one scenario considered by the leaders of the governing coalition, a draft supported by a majority of deputies may be approved and sent to Senate to be improved. This would ensure the completion of the reform in the lower house before the mid-year recess.
The Chamber is in a “concentrated effort” from Monday to Friday and, although the recess begins only on July 15, some deputies have already booked trips with their families next week. Mr. Ribeiro’s version will be put to a vote if the Chamber speaker believes that there are enough votes to pass it. It’s a proposal to amend the Constitution (PEC), so it requires the support of 308 of the 513 federal deputies for both the main text and the amendments.
One point the rapporteur is working on is the composition of the Federative Council, a measure that states and municipalities see as a loss of autonomy for the federative entities in the management of their revenues. At a meeting of the National Confederation of Municipalities (CNM), the rapporteur said that talks on the issue were still ongoing and that he would try to strike a balance.
In a brief speech, Mr. Ribeiro highlighted that the proposal is not the proposal of a government, but of a country, and signaled that he intends to keep the debate on the project away from radicalism.
“We haven’t finished this discussion [of the Federative Council]. All the decisions that we are going to make will take into consideration all the federative entities. We are not going to make a reform in which a path is decided without a federative balance,” he said.
Mr. Ribeiro also pointed out that he is negotiating to build a text that guarantees the autonomy of the states. “What greater loss of autonomy can there be than the federal government’s decision to change the fuel tax without agreeing with anyone and affecting everyone’s tax collection? This is a lack of autonomy. We are building a text to block this from happening. This is what we are working on,” he said.
In his speech, the rapporteur reinforced that tax reform “is not a political party reform, it is not a right-wing, left-wing, or center reform.” “I will not get into a fight of [Jair] Bolsonaro and [Luiz Inácio] Lula [da Silva] or anyone else. We are thinking about states, municipalities, and the country’s economy,” he said.
On Tuesday, however, in a meeting with about 40 of its 99 federal deputies, the Liberal Party (PL) decided against the reform after former President Jair Bolsonaro criticized it on social media. This mechanism forces lawmakers to follow the party’s position in order not to be punished. At least half of them were considering voting for the reform.
The Worker’s Party (PT), on the other hand, decided to back the text. Deputy André Figueiredo, leader of the Democratic Labor Party (PDT) and the largest parliamentary bloc in the lower house – which includes Brazilian Socialist Party (PSB), Brazil Union (União), Progressive Party (PP), and other smaller parties – said that the situation is still uncertain regarding the matter.
The mayors of the capitals and large cities also went to Brasília to participate in the discussions. They protested against the unification of the services tax ISS with the sales tax ICMS in the future tax on goods and services (IBS) and asked Mr. Lira to postpone the appreciation in the plenary to the next semester. However, they were told that this was not the intention and that the reform would only not be voted on if there is not enough support.
“The mayors were living under the illusion that it would not be voted, but they understood today that he [Chamber Speaker] will make every effort to get it approved and they will make proposals to the PEC,” said Deputy Jonas Donizete, former president of the National Front of Mayors (FNP).
In general, the governors have also made suggestions, such as increasing the transfer of the federal government to the states provided in the Regional Development Fund (FDR) to compensate for any losses of subnational entities.
In a meeting with lawmakers from the bloc formed by Brazilian Democratic Movement (MDB), Social Democratic Party (PSD), Republicans Party, and Podemos, the rapporteur heard that all parties were willing to analyze the reform, but there were considerations about the need for changes in the content of the opinion. “We are moving forward. With each discussion, we clarify some points. We will try to achieve convergence of the states as a whole, at least in what is possible. When a consensus is not possible, we will vote, and the result is sovereign,” said Mr. Ribeiro after the meeting.
*Por Raphael Di Cunto, Marcelo Ribeiro — Brasília
Source: Valor International