High fuel costs: Bern politicians call for a free halbtax for every resident
Amid the continued rise in petrol prices in Switzerland, lawmakers in Bern have proposed a new solution to cut the cost of travelling for locals. Instead of a Swiss nine-euro ticket or a decrease in vehicle taxes, the Social Democratic Party has submitted a proposal which would give every resident of Canton Bern a voucher to buy a 50 percent (halbtax) discount card for Swiss public transport.
Idea to give Bernese residents access to cheap public transport
In their letter to the governing council, supporters requested that every resident of Bern be given the opportunity to purchase public transport tickets at a reduced price through a “voucher” of 185 Swiss francs - enough to buy a half-fare travel card (halbtax) from SBB. The halbtax grants a 50-percent discount on all public transport journeys in Switzerland for a year.
The politicians justified the move by highlighting the excessively high cost of petrol in the canton - which has now risen above 2,40 Swiss francs a litre in many areas, with experts saying prices could reach as high as 3 francs a litre very soon. Instead of subsiding fuel for locals, as has been done in Germany, France and other nations, supporters argued a more sustainable solution could be giving locals a cheaper alternative to driving in the form of public transport.
“The beneficiaries would have the choice of how to use this voucher for public transport, either by purchasing a half-fare travel card or by using the money to pay for the tickets themselves. Such support would be fair, since everyone would benefit from it," said Grand Councillor Maurane Riesen. She concluded the idea would help fund Bernese public transport, support the economy and give relief to those struggling with high fuel costs.
Voucher scheme rejected by governing council in Bern
However, this view was not shared by the governing council, which rejected the first draft of the proposal. In a statement, they said the canton is already heavily subsiding public transport and that they consider “additional state subsidies for mobility, as proposed by the motion makers, to be the wrong way to cushion increased petrol prices and achieve a further shift to public transport."
Concluding their statement, the council explained that the COVID pandemic had put a heavy strain on cantonal finances, meaning they could not possibly fund the scheme. "For the reasons mentioned, the government council considers the proposed measures to be neither expedient nor affordable," they said. Supporters of the idea are expected to push forward with their campaign, with the possibility of a referendum looming large.