Prime minister, senior officials in talks on coalition crisis

Prime minister Mark Rutte, Labour leader Diederik Samsom and other senior party officials are holding talks on Monday afternoon in an effort to get the new coalition government back on track.


A Maurice de Hond opinion poll on Sunday said support for the Liberal-Labour coalition has slumped following the row over its plans to make health insurance premiums income-dependent.
On Friday, ministers announced they would drop the plans following a storm of protests, particularly from VVD supporters. Calculations showed some families would lose up to 10% of their spending power if the changes went ahead.
On Tuesday afternoon, Rutte and his team of ministers are due to debate the new coalition’s plans with parliament but the Financieele Dagblad says this may now not go ahead as ministers try to come up with alternatives.
Delays
Social affairs minister and deputy prime minister Lodewijk Asscher told reporters ahead of the talks he is optimistic about the outcome of Monday’s talks.
Ministers are trying to come up with an alternative method of redistributing income, in line with Labour party wishes. Several options, mainly involving tax increases, are on the table.
The Financieele Dagblad said at the weekend the third tax band may now be increased from 42% to 45%. The government had originally planned to cut the third tax band to 38% to compensate people for the higher health insurance costs. The fourth tax band, currently 52%, could also be put up, the paper says.
Another option could be to press ahead with making health insurance premium’s income-dependent but to reduce the effective health tax from 11% to 8% and spread it over incomes up to €150,000.
Income gap
Labour leader Samsom has stressed the new plan must meet the conditions of the coalition agreement by strengthening the economy, getting the government’s finances in order and reducing the gap between rich and poor.
This means some form of wealth redistribution is inevitable, insiders say.
The De Hond poll showed if there were a general election tomorrow, the right-wing VVD would win just 23 seats, almost half their general election total of 41. Labour is also down sharply at 27. The PvdA has 38 in the new-look parliament.
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