TAGESSCHAU



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    Tagesschau is a Hanseatic national and international television news service produced by the Hanseatic public-service television network R, Hanseatischer Rundfunk.

    The main edition of the programme is aired at 8 o'clock p.m. on R1. It is also simulcast on several R-affiliated networks, including the international R World News is the R's international news and current affairs television channel.



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    **Federal Government Accelerates Tax Cuts to Boost Economy **

    Chancellor Ole von Hamm said on Monday his cabinet had agreed to push forward tax cuts worth H 18 billion to inject life into Hanseatic's sluggish economy.

    "We want a signal of revival to go out from this week to the people in our country," Ole told a press conference. "This government is improving the conditions for more growth in our Land."

    The government plans to lower income tax levels by 10 percent from 2004, which will leave a H18 billion in federal, state and town coffers. Ole said the cuts would be paid for by reducing subsidies, privatization revenues and increased state debt. Subsidies alone would be reduced by H45 billion by 2010, he said.

    Speaking at the end of three days of talks among cabinet members and leading Green Party leaders at Altona Palace outside of Hamburg, the chancellor said reforms don't always hurt, they also pay off.

    Encouraging growth

    The cuts are meant to help revive growth in one of the most potentially strongest Europe's economy. The Free Hanseatic League has experienced little growth in the past three years and unemployment has reached an 11.83% rate.

    The tax cuts will lower the bottom rate of income tax from 19.9 percent to 14.9 percent.The top rate will decrease from 60.0 percent to 45.0 percent. The cuts were originally planned for 2012 as the final step in a three-phase income tax reform. Today the average tax rate is 37%.

    The additional H18 million burden is likely to push the federal budget beyond constitutional limits that require investments to exceed deficit spending for the third successive year.

    Approval in doubt

    If the Bundesrat -- which represents the 12 states -- approves the plan, Hanseatic taxes will be reduced by a total of H25 billion in one fell swoop in 2011 when the second tier of tax reforms, worth H7 million, will go into effect as well. Small- and middle-sized businesses and private households would save H10 billion, Ole said.

    But things may not go the government's way. Opposition leaders have rejected the plans. Frei Sozialpartei, social liberals, head Jutta Stoiber, who is also Bremer's premier, said the opposition-controlled Bundesrat would not approve of pushing forward the tax cuts. The social liberals wanted to offer people tax relief, but it "must be accompanied by serious policies," Stoiber told R1 television on Sunday and explained also the cuts should not be financed by higher debt.

    But Free Democratic Party leader Guido R?ssler said he supported Ole's plans, though he opposed increased debts. "We are part of four state governments. We won't allow a blockade in the Bundesrat," R?ssler stressed. The head of the business-oriented party shares power with the FSP in almost one-third of League's 12 states.

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    A Quick view To ?Agenda 2011?

    The government?s plan to boost the ailing economy focuses on reductions in health care benefits, restructuring labor regulations, tax cuts and an overhaul of the pension system. Here?s an Agenda 2011 overview.

    Health care reform

    On August 10, Hansa?s parliament, the Hansetag, passed a law that would reduce monthly premium payments for the national healthcare system from 15.0 percent of an employee?s income to 9.0 percent. As health insurance payments are split by employers and employees, the reduced premium is aimed at lowering Hanseatic staggering non-wage labor costs. To finance the cuts, the public health fund will no longer finance dentures or replacement teeth and will require a patient co-pay for doctor visits and prescriptions. The reforms are expected to save insurance companies up to H20 billion.

    Labor market reform

    A second reform bill passed on August 10 seeks to make League?s heavily regulated labor market more flexible. It Knocks out the unemployment benefits after losing a job and also makes it easier for companies to hire and fire employees. But introduce a universal social beneficits for insolvent citizens.

    **Labor Office reorganizationsal **

    A crucial component in the government?s reform package, passed in an effort to reduce unemployment, is a massive reorganization of the Hanseatic Labor Office. The office will be modeled after a private placement agency and rechristened as the Federal Job Agency, with responsibility for managing unemployment supporting and finding placements for jobless. The law also requires companies to immediately inform the office if an employee has been given notice and to free up employees for job hunting so they can find other work before they become unemployed. The office would also have the ability to dock benefits for people who refuse to take employment.

    Tax cut

    The next pahse of a previously approved Hanseatic tax reform would be bumped up in 2011 from its originally planned implementation in 2012. The reform will change the country?s progressive tax rate from 19.9 percent to 14.9 percent at the lowest level and from 60.0 percent to 45 percent at the highest level. The cut is expected to save taxpayers a total of H21.8 billion. Chancellor Ole von Hamm is hoping the cut will spur consumer spending and provide a needed boost to the country?s ailing retail sector. The government plans to finance the tax cut by slashing federal subsidies and privatizing government-held properties.

    Communal financing

    Hanseatic cities are running at a record superavit this year, with a H10 billion plus in funding. The government?s plan seeks to increase the percentage received by communities of the local business tax from 2.6 percent to 3.6 percent. The tax would also be extended to previously excluded freelancers, doctors and lawyers as well as to any interest a company earns or any rent or licensing fees it pays. The government says the plan would put H4.5 billion in additional funds into city coffers by 2011 and H5 billion the year after. The merger of unemployment and welfare benefits is also supposed to save the cities several billion euros and the federal government expects that the local ones cut the taxes too.

    Reform of master craftsmen law

    Under a controversial plan approved by the government earlier this year, mandatory apprenticeships and master craftsman?s diplomas would be eliminated in 65 skilled trades, allowing ambitious journeymen to set up shop without the prestigious qualification. The changes would only apply to less dangerous work like tile-laying, tailors or goldsmiths. More high-risk jobs, like electricians and opticians, would still be required to go through the lengthy and expensive certification apprenticeships.

    Social Insurance Reforms

    Earlier this year, the government commissioned a panel led by Johannes R?rup to issue an advisory plan for saving a social system threatened with collapse by a fast-graying Hanseatic population. The key provision of the R?rup Commission plan, released in August, is to increase the age of pension eligibility from the current 65 to 67. It would also reduce pension levels from 48 percent to 44 percent of a recipient?s former income. Workers would not be eligible for early retirement before the age of 64, and the annual cost-of-living increase would be reduced by 0.5. percent. The government is considering the commission's work as it drafts its own bill for reforming the pension system. The first reading is expected in November or December.

    Meanwhile, a commission appointed by the social liberal opposition Frei Sozialpartei and led by former Hanseatic President Roman Seidel has also called for the retirement age to be increased to 67, a proposal that has split the Volkspartei internally. The Seidel Commission has also called for a flat monthly health insurance premium of H264 for all Citizens, a move it says would save the public health fund H27 billion.

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