Sources say there has been tension between Lenihan and taoiseach Brian Cowen

A PLAN to hit the super-rich with an increased tax levy over and above that announced in the budget is being seriously considered by the government and may be included in the upcoming finance bill.

The Sunday Tribune has learned that an increase in the levy to be paid by those earning €300,000 a year or more is under review this weekend.

Instead of paying a 2% levy on any income earned over €100,000 a year, high earners may face a levy of 3% or higher on some of their income.

Such a dramatic change between the
budget and the finance bill would be unprecedented. However, it would finance the €60m cost of exempting minimum wages earners from the 1% income levy. And, politically, it will appease those who feel that the budget should have been tougher on high rollers.

"There is a view which is gathering momentum that the government should revisit the levy in the finance bill, targeting those who are very well-off," one well-placed source said.

"It wasn't on the table last week. It's on the table now. Many people in government circles believe it is a preferable option to cutbacks."

Another government figure put the likelihood of such a move at "50-50". "It is certainly being talked about in government circles. It is being contemplated."

Finance minister Brian Lenihan has
written to all government departments requesting they bring to the attention of
the bosses of all state bodies the decision
of ministers and secretaries general to
take a 10% pay cut. The letter asks if officials would consider making a similar gesture.

Last week, the Sunday Tribune revealed that just three of 40 state agency chief executives contacted said they would definitely follow the ministers' lead.

A follow-up survey in recent days of local authorities found that no county or city managers contacted said they would take a 10% cut in their salary.

However, Maurice Manning, who heads up the Human Rights Commission, has joined the small group of state agency bosses taking the pay cut.
Community, Rural & Gaeltacht Affairs Minister Eamon O'Cuiv yesterday suggested that one alternative to cuts in public services was for all public servants to take an average 5% pay cut, saving the exchequer around €1bn a year. O'Cuiv said he made the suggestion to "illustrate the choices" available.
Meanwhile, newly independent TD Joe Behan has disclosed that he is considering not contesting the next general election because of his disenchantment with national politics.
"I'll do the best I can while I'm here in the Dáil but all I'll say is that I haven't decided to run next time.
"I could see myself back teaching in school. It's something I'm going to give consideration to later," he told the Sunday Tribune, adding that he did not resign from Fianna Fáil to set up an independent stronghold in Wicklow.

Fianna Fail Down 10 points in poll

Fianna Fáil's support has collapsed by a staggering 10 percentage points in the first post-budget opinion poll, bringing the party to support levels last seen in the 1920s.

The medical card fiasco and ongoing public outrage with finance minister Brian Lenihan's first budget has seen the party's support plummet to just 26%.

Just one in five of all voters trust the government to manage the public finances out of the current downturn, according to the Red C poll in today's Sunday Business Post – down 30 points on the last poll just a month ago.

Fine Gael and Labour are the main beneficiaries, with Fine Gael up five points to 33%, overtaking FF for the first time in decades. Labour is up six percentage points to 15%. Support for the Greens has held reasonably steady at 6% while Sinn Féin is up 2 to 10%.