Cabinet cuts ministry budgets, approves building reforms

Four-percent cut will apply to all ministries except for defense, education, welfare, and transportation.

Netanyahu flanked by Fischer, Shalom and Lapid 370 (photo credit: Amos Ben-Gershom/GPO)
Netanyahu flanked by Fischer, Shalom and Lapid 370
(photo credit: Amos Ben-Gershom/GPO)
The cabinet on Sunday approved a four percent budget reduction for government ministries and passed a planning and building reform plan that would ease bureaucracy on home improvements.
Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and Finance Minister Yair Lapid offered up the four percent cuts, which will not apply to the Defense, Education, Welfare and Transportation Ministries to offset budget changes agreed to in the Knesset Finance Committee the previous week.
Those changes included a more progressive increase on income tax, elimination of taxes on housewives and a moderation in reductions in cuts to child allotments, among other things.
“The move is necessary in order to restore responsible policy and prevent the state from going bankrupt,” Lapid said.
Opposition Leader Shelly Yacimovich called the reduction cowardly, saying it would pull funds needed to police the streets, fund higher education, buy hospital equipment and train the unemployed.
Netanyahu and Lapid, she said, “choose to hurt the vast majority of Israelis, those who don’t have lobbyists and are not well-connected.”
The cabinet also approved Interior Minister Gideon Sa’ar’s reform plans for building and planning, which will eliminate the need to obtain a permit for building structures that do not interfere with the surroundings, such as fences, awnings or pergolas.
“We want to simplify these processes, to cut bureaucracy, to shorten timetables” for planning and building, Netanyahu said ahead of the cabinet meeting.
The reform also establishes an abbreviated licensing process. For the first time, the law will set a 45-day limit for approving certain structures and work, such as closing an existing balcony, adding up to 25 sq.m. of space, adding a protected room in an existing building and adding elevators or escalators to an existing building. If no approval is given within 45 days, the applicant will automatically receive permission.
The bill also lays out, for the first time, a limit on approval time for plans. Approval or rejection of a plan will be made within 12 months for plans under the purview of a local planning and building commission, 18 months for plans under the purview of a regional planning and building commission, and 24 months for town and national outline plans.
Furthermore, the reform will combine licensing institutes for regulatory permits under one roof, and devolve some planning authority to local and regional commissions.
Instead of six regional planning commissions planning services for 2.5 million households, 123 local planning commissions will take on the responsibility.
The reform, originally planned in the previous Knesset session, was withdrawn when it became overly complex, Netanyahu said.
He credited Sa’ar with paring it down to the “improved and scaled-down reform” passed by the cabinet on Sunday, which was expected to be presented to the Knesset in its first reading within a week.
Globes contributed to this report.