Parliamentarians allied with the government and the Planalto Palace are discussing raising the authorization for expenses outside the spending ceiling to around R$ 50 billion (the rule that limits the increase in federal spending to the inflation of the previous year). This authorization would be included in the Proposed Amendment to the Constitution (PEC) under discussion in the Senate, which was designed to try to reduce fuel prices.
The discussions are part of the offensive opened in Congress and led by the president of the Chamber, Arthur Lira (PP-AL), in response to the readjustment in gasoline and diesel prices announced last week by Petrobras.
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The PEC was announced earlier this month by President Jair Bolsonaro as a way to partially compensate states that zero the ICMS on diesel oil. Initially, this PEC foresees an out-of-ceiling expenditure of R$ 29.6 billion for this purpose.
Now, it is under discussion to raise the expense to R$ 50 billion. The goal is to have space to spend and reduce fuel at the pump. With less than four months to go before the elections, this is the main concern of Bolsonaro and the top of Congress right now.
One of the possibilities is to use the space to provide a subsidy for diesel directly at the pump and for cooking gas in the cylinder. Another idea is the payment of an allowance for truck drivers, taxi drivers and app drivers and the expansion of Auxílio Gás, created last year for low-income families.
The money to subsidize fuels would be obtained with proposals that the Chamber is discussing, but for which there is still no consensus.
In conversations with interlocutors in recent days, Lira has mainly mentioned two proposals: increasing or even doubling the Social Contribution on Net Income (CSLL) of oil and gas companies (because it would not be possible to increase only that of Petrobras) or tax exports about crude oil.
Today, the sector pays the general CSLL rate of 9%, but the oil companies deliver other public revenues, such as royalties and special participations on production and income tax. Another way out, seen with greater viability in the group, is to create an export tax. Unlike the CSLL, this tax would be effective immediately.
The possibility also arose of stamping the dividend distributed by Petrobras to the Union for subsidy projects.
In the first quarter alone, the total allocated to dividends by Petrobras totals R$ 48.5 billion, with R$ 17.7 billion for the Union (Federal Union, BNDES and BNDESPar). The amounts will be paid in equal installments in the months of June and July.
It’s no use just increasing revenue, in the view of Congress. This money would have to be used to subsidize fuel. As expenses are already locked by the ceiling, it would be necessary to make a change in the rule to allow spending above the limit. It is in this context that the PEC that is being processed in the Senate comes in, since in order to change the spending ceiling it is necessary to change the Constitution.
The initiatives against Petrobras and to try to reduce fuel prices intensified after the readjustment of 5.18% in the liter of gasoline and 14.26% in the diesel applied in Petrobras refineries since Saturday (18). The state-owned company ignored the appeals of Bolsonaro, Lira, government ministers and parliamentarians.
In addition to partially compensating the states, the package already announced by the government provides for zero PIS/Cofins and Cide on gasoline, at a cost of R$ 16.8 billion this year.