FINANCE Minister Michael Noonan has told the Labour Party to come up with the cash for its family-friendly budget proposals with cuts elsewhere.
Mr Noonan is still dampening down Labour demands for substantial easing in Budget 2014.
The budget negotiations will crank up a gear this week when ministers hold one-to-one meetings with Public Spending Minister Brendan Howlin to discuss the cuts in their areas.
Labour wants a range of family-friendly measures to help middle-income families with children.
Among the measures being examined by Labour are easing back to school expenses by extending allowances, generic school uniforms and school book rental schemes.
The Government is also expected to direct more funding towards raising standards in the childcare sector.
The free medical care scheme for children under five is also on the table.
Although it's accepted in Fine Gael that the package of cuts and taxes will be below €3.1bn, with health and education benefiting, Mr Noonan is playing hardball with Labour.
He is adopting a range of tactics to hold the line against his junior coalition partners, by insisting there is no extra cash available and the funding for the family-friendly package will have to come in cuts elsewhere.
"He's telling them it has to come at the expense of something else," a minister told the Irish Independent.
Jobs Minister Richard Bruton said the Budget was going to be "difficult".
But he dismissed suggestions of a logjam in the preparations for the Budget. He said the Government was only starting the process of working out the details.
"It is going to be a difficult Budget. Everybody knows that. Every year finding savings is more difficult because the low-hanging fruit is no longer there.
"This is a difficult Budget but also we can get out of the bailout at the end of this year and I have heard Michael Noonan emphasising the importance that, now that we are towards the end of that process, we need to close out the game, as he would say himself in football parlance," he said.
"That is the truth. We need to make decisions now and make sure that we can sustain a recovery," he added.