'NIS 1.138 billion hidden in budget for coalition parties'

Meretz’s Oron reveals NIS 147m. earmarked for Israel Beiteinu, NIS 130m. for Shas, NIS 120m. for UTJ, NIS 100m. for Labor and NIS 72m Habayit Hayehudi.

haim oron 311 (photo credit: Courtesy)
haim oron 311
(photo credit: Courtesy)
As the Knesset held its second day of marathon debate on the draft budget on Tuesday, Knesset Speaker Reuven Rivlin added his voice to the criticism of coalition agreements that would cost state coffers over a billion shekels, but were hidden deep within budget clauses.
Rivlin blasted the way the government had announced budgetary allocations in coalition agreements, describing them as “kosher, but putrid.”
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Earlier, Deputy Finance Minister Yitzhak Cohen (Shas) announced that “there is no written agreement on voting for the 2011-2012 state budget, and thus there is no obligation to present the agreements to the Knesset. Nevertheless, out of caution and a desire to act in the spirit of the clause, I am announcing that it was decided to act according to the clauses in the coalition agreements in the 2009-2010 state budget.”
Cohen went on to detail a number of clauses in the agreements with some of the coalition parties, but did not discuss either the sums promised, or the topics agreed upon.
“The government is required to present detailed and clear information to the Knesset, and not to make do with giving partial information that forces the MKs to search for the full significance, especially on sensitive subjects,” complained Rivlin.
Rivlin requested an official opinion on the subject from Knesset legal adviser Eyal Inon.
Inon responded Tuesday evening that “even if the government’s announcement is like a riddle, at the end of the day, it included specific references to clauses in the coalition agreements.
“Under these circumstances it would have been appropriate for the government announcement to include the relevant details, rather than just references to the individual clauses,” he said.
On Tuesday morning, Meretz chairman Haim Oron, one of the most veteran members of the Knesset Finance Committee, revealed that the total cost of coalition agreement-related clauses in the budget weighed in at NIS 569 million per year of the biennial state budget.
Oron said that NIS 147m. was earmarked for Israel Beiteinu, NIS 130m. for Shas, NIS 120m. for United Torah Judaism, NIS 100m. for Labor and NIS 72m. for Habayit Hayehudi. The total funds allocated for the coalition agreements, according to Oron’s calculations, stood at NIS 1.138 billion.
“The total amount is hidden within the ‘reserve funds’ clause in order to prevent transparency or public debate,” Oron told lawmakers from the speaker’s podium. “I know for certain that there is a commitment to the coalition partners that these amounts will not be reduced.”
Coalition member MK Shelly Yacimovich (Labor) announced that she was unable to support the budget, which is expected to come before the Knesset for final approval on Wednesday.
Yacimovich complained that the current draft reduced progressive taxes – a decision that she said would cost the government NIS 30b. – while increasing regressive taxes, the effects of which are felt more acutely among the lower and middle classes.
Yacimovich said that behind the scenes, the government had “given in” to the wealthiest interests. “I have no intention of voting in favor of the budget, which bears the extreme economic fingerprints of Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu in a deep and painful manner,” she said.
“The fact that the Labor Party lives in peace with this budget and, unlike the other coalition partners, did not influence it to any degree, testifies to the party’s complete bankruptcy. It is stuck to a government over which it holds no influence,” Yacimovich said.
On Monday, MK Miri Regev (Likud) also announced that she could not support the budget, similarly citing concerns that the budget failed to provide solutions to the lower and middle classes, particularly regarding the housing shortage.