Government announces priority for same-sex civil unions and tax reform

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Published On : Mon, Mar 17th, 2014

Bachelet tells Congress to act urgently on legislation to allow gay civil unions while March 31 set as deadline for submission of tax reform bill.

Chile is one of a handful of South American states without any legislation recognizing same-sex unions. Photo via Movilh / Facebook

Chile is one of a handful of South American states without any legislation recognizing same-sex unions. Photo via Movilh / Facebook

President Michelle Bachelet shed new light on her legislative priorities Monday, labeling the same-sex civil union legislation sitting before Congress as “urgent,” while a deadline for the submission of the new administration’s crucial tax reform bill is set for the end of the month.

By categorizing the Life Partner Agreement (AVP) as “suma urgencia” — the second highest level of urgency the president can give to legislation — Bachelet is forcing Congress to discuss the bill within the next 30 days.

“We want to send a signal of our commitment to end all forms of discrimination,” government spokesman Álvaro Elizalde said Monday.

The AVP bill that would legalize civil unions between same-sex couples originated in the Senate in 2011. Former President Sebastián Piñera regarded it as a key piece of legislation within his notable legacy on anti-discrimination and sexual freedom. The bill passed the Upper House on Jan. 7 this year, and Piñera marked the bill for “immediate discussion” — the highest level of urgency — two weeks before the end of his term as he scrambled to have it pushed into the Chamber of Deputies from the Constitutional Committee where it currently remains.

Chile’s oldest minority sexual rights organization, the Movement for Integration and Homosexual Freedom (Movilh), welcomed the announcement and said it fit with Movilh’s desired timeline of having same-sex civil unions legally recognized by year end.

“We applaud the government’s gesture,” Movilh wrote in a press release Monday. “This executive action removes any doubts and we can count on the AVP being passed this year.”

Elizalde also announced Monday that the government will submit a tax reform bill by March 31, falling in line with Bachelet’s campaign pledge to outline her plans for a new tax system within her first 100 days of governing.

Reforms include a five point bump in corporate tax from 20 to 25 percent, a lowering of the top personal income tax bracket from 40 to 35 percent and an end to the Taxable Profits Fund (FUT) created under Gen. Augusto Pinochet. The new tax system is charged with financing expensive campaign pledges that include free universal higher education within six years of the new administration. Off the back of nationwide student protests that reached a crescendo in 2011, education reform as well as debate over a new Constitution came to define last year’s presidential race ultimately won in dominant fashion by Bachelet. The president’s Nueva Mayoría pact won 68 out of 120 deputy seats and 21 of the available 38 senate spots in November’s parliamentary election, taking it above the 50 percent majority needed to pass changes to the tax system.

“[This tax reform] is a project that is designed to increase tax revenues, so that the Chilean state can satisfy the social needs that are imperative to citizens,” Elizalde said. “Specifically, to fund education reform and meet other social needs such as strengthening public health.”

Along with these measures, Elizalde announced that the government will send two other bills to Congress this week — one that seeks to resolve disputes with garbage collectors and other municipal workers and another that proposes modifications to financial services regulations.

By Angus McNeice (mcneice@santiagotimes.cl)
Copyright 2014- The Santiago Times

About the Author

Angus McNeice
Angus is The Santiago Times deputy editor and chief sports writer. He studied at Stanford University and the London School of Journalism and worked as a political speechwriter in the U.K. Parliament before moving to Chile. He freelances for a range of publications including ESPN. Contact him on mcneice@santiagotimes.cl and follow him on @GusMcneice