Knesset votes to extend budget deadline

Ministers approve pushing off date to pass budget to November 5; opposition MKs complain government is not letting Knesset work.

The Knesset  (photo credit: REUTERS)
The Knesset
(photo credit: REUTERS)
The 2015-2016 state budget must be passed by November 5, according to an amendment to Basic Law: The Budget which passed in its first reading in the Knesset on Monday by a vote of 57-55.
According to the current Basic Law, the budget is only for one year and a new government has 100 days to pass it.
The coalition agreement between Kulanu and Likud called for a 60-day extension, but Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon asked for an additional 15 days due to the High Holy Days, giving him 175 days from the date the government was formed to pass the budget.
The Knesset is also likely to extend the current summer session by two weeks, to the middle of August, in order to help push the budget forward on time, a change that does not require legislation.
The Ministerial Committee for Legislation approved the bill extending the budget deadline, and the first reading in the Knesset took place after press time.
The bill also brought back the two-year budget, a mechanism that then-finance minister Yuval Steinitz pushed forward in 2011, and the subsequent finance minister, Yair Lapid, canceled.
Steinitz, currently national infrastructure minister, expressed hope during the meeting that a biennial budget would be instituted for good this time, but the bill only brings it back temporarily.
The government then submitted a request to the Knesset to have the bill put to a vote immediately, a type of motion that, in most cases, would pass easily, but with the 61-seat coalition, became an opportunity for the opposition to speak out.
The Knesset Interim Committee held an hour-long circuitous discussion, eventually approving the bill for a first reading Monday night.
Yesh Atid’s Karin Alharrar wondered why the government is in such a rush to vote on the extension if the budget doesn’t have to pass until November.
“What kind of Isra-bluff is it to vote on the 2015 budget when the year is already over? I was taught that time is linear and only moves forward,” MK Jamal Zahalka (Joint List) quipped.
Zionist Union MK Eitan Cabel followed Zahalka’s comment with a joke that the government wants to star in “Back to the Future 4,” leading to a raucous debate on how many films were in the series (three) and who played “the professor.”
MK Michal Biran (Zionist Union) googled the movie on her phone and announced that Christopher Lloyd played Doc Brown.
Opposition MKs also complained that the coalition hasn’t allowed any Knesset committees to be formed and no laws are being brought to a vote, only authorizations of the government’s machinations and rearrangements.
“Someone wants the Knesset to be paralyzed,” MK Ofer Shelah (Yesh Atid) said forebodingly.
Yisrael Beytenu faction chairman Robert Ilatov wrote a letter to Speaker Yuli Edelstein pointing out that two months have passed since the election and Knesset committees cannot work because the coalition is “intentionally lengthening the process of forming permanent committees, thus severely harming the Knesset’s ability to function and the oversight process.”
In addition, Ilatov said there is no interim Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee, because its chairman, Yariv Levin, was appointed tourism and public security minister.
Ilatov called for Edelstein’s immediate intervention in the matter.
However, coalition chairman Tzachi Hanegbi said committees will be formed by next week, and anyway, there is nothing stopping the members of the interim Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee from calling a meeting and choosing a chairman for the next few days.
Meanwhile, Edelstein penned a letter to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu asking him to remind his ministers that they must come to the Knesset on time to respond to parliamentary questions and motions to the agenda.
“The citizens’ eyes are watching this house, and as part of strengthening their connection to the Knesset, we increased transparency and access to our public work... Cooperation between the government and the Knesset in the plenum and committees will allow all of us to fulfill the public mission we took upon ourselves. With a joint effort, we will protect the Knesset’s status along with that of the Knesset and elected officials’ image,” Edelstein wrote.