End of commuter allowance? Gewessler: “It’s about reform”

The Austrian commuter initiative was outraged, the FPÖ even saw the end of free mobility approaching: A statement by Leonore Gewessler at the UN climate conference COP28 in Dubai caused critics to rise to the barricades. The Green Environment Minister said in connection with the abolition of climate-damaging subsidies that you cannot finance what you are fighting at the same time.

Abolition of climate-damaging subsidies

As reported, Austria has joined a corresponding initiative in Dubai. The first step is to create an overview of the extent of climate-damaging subsidies in order to derive action steps from this. According to an analysis by the economic research institute Wifo, the Austrian state awarded 4.1 to 5.7 billion euros in climate-damaging subsidies annually between 2016 and 2020. According to Wifo, the highest fossil fuel (indirect) subsidies in Austria include the commuter allowance and the diesel privilege.

“Please stick to the facts”

In Upper Austria alone, more than 300,000 employees – that’s almost every second employee – have a longer commute than 10 kilometers and are therefore legally entitled to the commuter allowance, calculates Infrastructure Provincial Councilor Günther Steinkellner (FPÖ). Across Austria, around 1.3 million people receive a commuter allowance. Do they all now have to worry about hundreds of euros per year?

“The commuter allowance is about making the system fairer and more ecological,” said Gewessler on Wednesday evening in the ZiB2. “I ask everyone who assumes an abolition here to stick to the facts. It’s about reform,” said Gewessler in an interview with Armin Wolf, without giving any details about the plans. In terms of realpolitik, reform is generally considered difficult because none of the major parties want to mess with the many commuters in the country. The interview in full length:

Criticism from the FPÖ

Meanwhile, the criticism continues. For people who live in rural areas and have to travel to urban centers to work every day, the commuter allowance is an “indispensable factor,” said Upper Austria’s deputy governor Manfred Haimbuchner (FPÖ).

“The federal government’s plans to make driving expensive and therefore significantly less attractive end in a social dilemma. I therefore hope that the plans to abolish the commuter allowance are just a mirage,” said Steinkellner in a broadcast. FPÖ general secretary and transport spokesman Christian Hafenecker even feared an “end of free mobility”.

“A devastating picture”

But harsh criticism also came from the coalition partner – namely from Lower Austria. “Working people should be harassed while climate stickers enjoy freedom of fools on our streets, that is out of the question for us. That is a devastating picture that some of those responsible here give off,” said Lower Austria’s governor Johanna Mikl-Leitner (ÖVP) indignantly.

The Austrian Commuter Initiative described the project as “oppressive”. The commuter allowance is “not just a tax benefit, but an indispensable support for people who travel long distances every day to earn a living,” chairman Peter Amreich was quoted as saying in a broadcast.

Author

Judith Pointner

Online editor

Judith Pointner

Judith Pointner

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