Finance Minister T.M. Thomas Isaac's election-eve budget proposes a host of new welfare initiatives and no increase in levies.
Presenting the budget in the State Assembly on Thursday, Dr. Isaac said his endeavour was to link all welfare measures the Left Democratic Front (LDF) government had taken during the last nearly five years in office and “fill up the gaps” with this budget (which comes just three months before the end of the term).
Welfare pensions, covering all sections of the poor, would be increased from Rs.300 to Rs.400 a month. Every child born in the State would get a government deposit of Rs.10,000 in its name as an endowment, which could be used along with interest for the boy's/girl's education, or employment needs after higher secondary education.
The budget proposes including five lakh more families in the list of families eligible for rice at Rs.2 a kg and free health insurance benefits, taking the total number of such families to 40 lakh in the State. The insured would get up to Rs.70,000 for treatment for serious ailments. The budget proposes higher allocation than the previous year for all sectors of traditional industry, public distribution system, fishermen, Scheduled Caste and Schedule Tribe welfare, education and health, besides increases in monthly pension for journalists (Rs.4,000), circus artistes (Rs.750), tuberculosis patients (Rs.400), leprosy patients (Rs.500), cancer patients (Rs.1,000) and victims of Endosulfan poisoning (Rs.1,000).
The budget estimates a revenue receipt of Rs.38,546.89 crore against a revenue expenditure of Rs.44,566.33 crore, thereby running up a revenue deficit of Rs.6,019.44 crore. It proposes Rs.2,910.13 crore towards capital expenditure. The additional expenditure involved in the new proposals would come to Rs.753.41 crore.
Stressing the achievements of the government in resource mobilisation, Dr. Isaac said the increase in State's own tax revenue by 129 per cent over the last five years had not been on account of any increase in tax rates, but enhanced efficiency of the tax collection mechanism.
He proposed steps for further simplifying the tax collection procedures. He also proposed exempting all types of laterite stone from tax and exempting, with retrospective effect from April 1, 2005, the film industry from VAT. He proposed withdrawing luxury tax payable by cable TV operators (at the rate of Rs.5 per month per connection) and reducing, with retrospective effect from April 2007, the tax on hot boxes (choodarapetti) to 4 per cent.
He proposed an ‘amnesty package' to help tax defaulters in the plywood, cardamom and Ayurvedic medicine sectors to settle their tax dues.