What happened to the tax promise?
On the Edge: An opinion column about current events in Norway
By Siv Jensen
To avoid a tax level debate, the ruling Norwegian Labor Party and their coalition partners promised that they would not raise the tax level above the 2004-level, both in the 2005 and 2009 parliamentary elections. However, the devil is in the details, because Labor excludes toll roads from their own definition of taxes. This means that they can increase government spending by increasing the proportion of roads financed by tolls, without technically breaking their own tax promise. The same goes for property tax collected by local authorities, not the state, and environmental charge to the NOX fund which replaces governmental tax, but is still a tax.
The NOX-fund collected 2,6 billion NOK (0,45 billion USD) I the three year period 2008-2011, while the property tax paid yearly is 7,6 billion NOK (1,3 billion USD) and increasing as the tax base is continuously expanded under this government.
The biggest tax collecting outside the tax level promise is the toll roads. The ruling Norwegian Labor Party and their coalition partners said that they wanted to finance roads through tolls for 60 billion NOK in the National Transport Plan 2010-2019. This figure has been increased to 80 billion NOK (14 billion USD) in the preliminary draft of National Transport Plan 2014-2023. Norway has the world record in high fuel taxes, but 80 billion NOK is still more than four times the estimated government income from fuel taxes in 2013. The 80 billion NOK in road finance from tolls translates to more than 100 billion in toll fees from motorists, because of the additional costs of interest rates and operating costs. The figure is even higher than 100 billion if one also takes into account that a large percentage of the toll ring in Oslo is used directly as public transport subsidies.
The other approach to tax level is the tax money actually flowing in to the Norwegian state, that increases form year to year. The revision at year end showed that the states income for 2012 increases with 40 billion NOK (7 billion USD) compared to the initial decision for the 2012 budget. And this happens year after year. The Norwegian state budget surplus is now estimated to 390 billion NOK (68 billion USD) for 2012.
I wish that at least the ruling Labor Party would try to follow up on its promise not to raise taxes above the 2004-level. It disappoints me very much that they instead spend time looking for loop-holes in their own promises.
Siv Jensen is the Leader of the Progress Party (Fremskrittspartiet) and also the parliamentary leader for the Progress Party’s group in the Storting (The Norwegian Parliament). The classical liberal (libertarian-conservative) Progress Party is the second largest party in Norway and the leading opposition party. Ms. Jensen has been elected member of the Storting since 1997, representing the district of Oslo. Ms. Jensen is member of the Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and Defense and member of the Enlarged Foreign Affairs Committee.
This article originally appeared in the Jan. 18, 2013 issue of the Norwegian American Weekly. To subscribe, visit SUBSCRIBE or call us at (800) 305-0271.