Staff Reporter
BALEARIC leader Jaume Matas made it quite clear yesterday that it was not his intention to increase the petrol tax to finance the health service. But he warned that he would not stand for any deterioration in the service.

According to government calculations, increasing the petrol tax by one cent per litre would provide an extra 72 million euros in three years, that is, 24 million euros a year, which is insufficient to solve the health sector's financial problems.

The deficit in funding came to 244 million euros between 2002 and 2004.
The message sent out by Matas yesterday was clear: he does not want to create new taxes or increase the ones in existence, but he did not rule out a generalised increase in taxes next year in all regions, to finance the health service. “The problem must be solved by January 1,” he said.
He also pointed out that the previous left wing coalition government had left unpaid bills totalling 350 million euros.
He noted that other regions, such as Catalonia, Andalucia, Asturias and Valencia, have already increased the fuel tax to compensate their problems in financing the health service. He added that other regions had “much worse problems than we do.” Earlier, Partido Popular spokesman (PP) Miquel Ramis, had hinted that the only possibility of the Government increasing the petrol tax would be if it needed to make up the deficits in the budget for health and education projects. “If the Balearic Government has to increase tax in this area it will only be due to obvious reasons and it will be the fault of the central Government,” said Ramis, who reproached the spokesperson for the socialist party (PSOE), Francina Armengol, who, as reported yesterday, criticised the amount of debt the Balearic Government has taken on.

Maria Antonia Munar, the president of the Council of Majorca, had also been criticised for independently seeking greater finance for the island from Madrid.

Munar, leader of the Majorcan Union (UM) party, said that the talks she had in Madrid, when she was accompanied by socialist leader Francesc Antich, did not imply disloyalty to the PP.

The UM supports the PP-run regional government, but she said it is “good to reach agreements with all sides and with the central government, which at the moment is socialist, independently of the fact that we are loyal to a pact with the PP.” In Madrid, she sought funding for a cycle path network of 335 kilometres.
Balearic interior minister José Maria Rodriguez agreed, and said that her talks in Madrid “did not infringe on the responsibilities” of the Balearic government.

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