Supreme Court questions biennial budget

Attorneys Eyal Rozovsky and Eli Borschtein argue biennial budget law is non-constitutional as it seeks to amend a Basic Law through a temporary law.

October 5, 2010 03:41
2 minute read.
High Court of Justice [file]

high court panel citizenship law 311. (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)

Only one week before the government intended to file the biennial budget before the Knesset to begin the alwayscontentious approval process, a High Court of Justice decision Monday placed the budget’s future under a cloud of uncertainty. Responding to a petition filed by former finance minister MK Roni Bar- On (Kadima) on behalf of his party, the High Court determined that there was sufficient legal uncertainty to ask that the government and the Knesset explain the basis for the biennial budget.

Attorneys Eyal Rozovsky and Eli Borschtein argued that the biennial budget law is non-constitutional as it seeks to amend a Basic Law through a temporary law rather than through an amendment and as such will only be valid for the period in which the current government holds office.

The petition also argued that the concept seriously harms the nature of relations between the government and the Knesset, and restricts the Knesset’s power and ability to provide oversight of the government through the budget.

While the government prepares the budget, it is the Knesset that must ratify it through three readings, just like any other bill. Should the budget lose during one of those votes, such a vote automatically constitutes a no-confidence vote in the government.

Coalition partners, well aware of the ruling party’s interest in passing the budget, often use the threat of opposing the budget to gain policy or budgetary leverage.

During Monday’s hearing, the High Court acknowledged that the appeal raised serious questions that justified a further hearing on the subject.

That hearing will only be held in another three months’ time, meaning that the government will necessarily have to begin the legislative process for the budget before it is certain that the court will even uphold it as legal.

While Kadima trumpeted the High Court decision, the Finance Ministry downplayed it, emphasizing that the court did not issue an order preventing the budget from being filed next week. Similarly, Knesset Speaker MK Reuven Rivlin (Likud) said that the decision to adopt a biennial budget was not a behind-the-back move, but rather was carried out with “penetrating public debate” and after the various opinions had been heard.

Supporters of the initiative, led by Finance Minister Yuval Steinitz (Likud), emphasize that the biennial budget will increase governmental stability, maintain critical government- sponsored programs and most importantly, has the support of the OECD, which recently accepted Israel into its prestigious ranks.

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