Interior Minister Lauri Läänemets (SDE), who is participating in the coalition talks, said he was surprised by the Reform Party's conservatism on the issue of marriage equality. The minister also said that the SDE stands up for the income stability of low-income earners.
"When we joined coalition discussions, we were willing to accomplish a number of things. The hope was that the issues that have divided society for so long could be resolved. Of course, this must be done together with society. If we do not address it now, the issue will be back on the table during the next parliamentary election. Of course, the Reform Party's voters are the most surprised by its position," Läänemets said.
"If we want the coalition to work, everyone has to find common ground within their faction, if there is no common ground, then the party cannot vote for it. We have, however, a unique opportunity to do away with the marriage inequality issue now," Läänemets said.
Kaja Kallas (Reform) wants to balance the budget in four years. "A balanced budget would be a reasonable goal to strive for. Otherwise, we will be breaking European rules and borrowing our current expenses. The solution is not so straightforward, because the necessary amounts cannot simply be cut somewhere. Tax reform is clearly needed, but whether the coalition is prepared for it remains to be seen.
I don't believe a zero-balance budget can be achieved in four years. It is feasible if we commit to significant tax changes, but I do not believe there is sufficient will at the table," Läänemets said.
"It also depends on the type of taxes levied: we have discussed eliminating the homestead exemption in order to strengthen local governments' revenue base, for example, to assist rural schools," Läänemets said.
"Two-step property tax amendments would be more difficult to implement; alternative solutions are required. To keep our climate targets in mind, we should focus on tax changes that benefit the environment. The goal would be to reduce waste generation in the first place. We could also raise income taxes or implement a progressive tax system," Läänemets said.
"Not everyone is in favor of a car tax. At the moment, neither the social democrats nor the liberals have put it on the table. This could be discussed, but there has to be a real change in public transportation service then. People on lower incomes are already driving themselves poor, and we cannot yet impose an additional tax on them," Läänemets said.
"At the moment, we don't know what spending or investment we want to make. When Kaja Kallas called and asked what our positions were, she said it was important for them to get rid of the tax hump, and I said it was important for us to reduce taxes for people on lower wages. We are both aware that a compromise is required," Läänemets said. "Raising the minimum wage to €1,200, as promised by the social democrats, is a revenue measure in terms of the state budget, not an expenditure measure," he added.
SDE is also opposed to the expansion of oil shale mines. "If we agree not to excavate any new mines, a previously issued mining license could be cancelled and the state would reimburse companies. There are already a number of working mines, and Eesti Energia could grant VKG permission to excavate in one of its incomplete mines. Finally, it is a matter of finding a solution to the problem of job losses," Läänemets said.
In the coalition talks, the issue of voting rights of non-citizens in local elections was thoroughly discussed. "It is not easy, and the social democrats have questioned whether it is the right thing to do. We also need to amend the Constitution for this," Läänemets said. "I am not sure how democratic it is to believe that a government order could temporarily suspend someone's ability to vote, which will primarily be lost by an opposition party," Läänemets added.
Läänemets also said that he learned of the disagreement between the PPA and the ISS after senior police officials initiated criminal proceedings, and that the heads of both agencies met with former Interior Minister Mart Helme to discuss it.
Editor: Mari Peegel, Kristina Kersa