Knesset okays 90-day extension for passing budget

Opposition skeptical new Finance Min. Lapid will be able to help middle class amid deep cuts; 8 new deputy ministers begin work.

Knesset MKs at plenum 370 (photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem/The Jerusalem Post)
Knesset MKs at plenum 370
(photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem/The Jerusalem Post)
The new government cleared its first hurdle on Tuesday, passing a bill giving it 135 days to authorize a new budget.
According to the new legislation, the government will have 85 days from Monday, when it was sworn in, to present a budget proposal, and the Knesset will have 50 days to discuss and vote on it – a total of 135 days to pass a budget, as opposed to the original 45.
Justice Minister Tzipi Livni explained that the bill will allow the government to propose a clear, organized and responsible budget, and give the Knesset enough time to prepare for a vote.
The bill passed with 56 in favor, 10 opposed and 15 abstaining, in a relatively quick plenum meeting, compared to the filibuster the opposition had planned, before a compromise was reached on Monday night.
Still, the opposition had plenty to say in the Knesset discussion of the legislation.
Temporary Finance Committee chairman Moshe Gafni (UTJ) said to Finance Minister Yair Lapid: “You committed to helping the middle class, and now I want to see what you’ll do when ministry bureaucrats tell you that you need to cut NIS 40 billion, and it’ll become clear to you who are deprived and who are rich.”
Gafni challenged Lapid to fight “tycoons” and lower prices of water and electricity, and recommended he not pass a two-year budget.
On Monday, Finance Minister Yair Lapid decided not to bring the idea of a twoyear budget to a vote, saying he needs to learn the issue.
Later Monday, the government compromised to avoid a filibuster, allowing the Knesset 50 days instead of 30 to pass the budget.
A Labor spokeswoman said before the compromise was reached that the opposition is willing to filibuster the extension “until [US President Barack] Obama arrives and until the eve of Pessah” and even after, to make life difficult for the coalition.
Also Tuesday, the Knesset authorized the appointment of eight deputy ministers: Deputy Defense Minister Danny Danon (Likud Beytenu), Deputy Foreign Minister Ze’ev Elkin (Likud Beytenu), Deputy Transportation Minister Tzipi Hotovely (Likud Beytenu), Deputy Minister in the Prime Minister’s Office Ophir Akunis (Likud Beytenu), Deputy Interior Minister Faina Kirschenbaum (Likud Beytenu), Deputy Minister of Religious Services Eli Ben- Dahan (Bayit Yehudi), Deputy Education Minister Avraham Wortzman (Bayit Yehudi), and Deputy Finance Minister Mickey Levy (Yesh Atid).
The Knesset also authorized its own Passover recess, which will continue until the summer session begins on April 21. The summer recess will begin on July 28, two days before the budget is due.