'07 Budget one step closer to passing

Cabinet approves establishment of office in PMO to deal with pensioner issues.

rafi eitan 88 (photo credit: )
rafi eitan 88
(photo credit: )
The budget came one step closer to passing Sunday when the cabinet approved the establishment of an office in the Prime Minister's Office to deal with pensioner issues. The move guaranteed that the budget would pass, even if Olmert cannot secure the votes of the seven Labor Ministers. "We will work towards an agreement with all the coalition partners even though we don't need their votes in order to pass this vote," said a Finance Ministry spokesman. On Sunday, Finance Minister Avraham Hirchson met with Labor Ministers Isaac Herzog and Shalom Simhon in order to find common ground over the budget. Herzog described the meeting as "productive and positive," and added that he and Simhon were arguing for the points approved by the Labor Party as "crucial" to the budget. Last week, Labor Faction Members approved a set of demands for the 2007 budget. At the top of their list, was that the freeze on the minimum wage be lifted, and that the budget see the wage be raised to $1,000 a month as set by Labor's coalition agreement. On Sunday, the Pensioners secured their demand for an Office for Pensioners' Issues. According to the decision, the office will employ up to 19 workers and a comptroller, and will deal with a variety of issues, from health related issues to volunteerism for the elderly. Government officials said that the establishment of the office was in line with Kadima's coalition agreement with the Pensioners. A spokeswoman for Pensioners' leader Rafi Eitan, who will head the office, said she was overjoyed by the decision, which she said would "improve the physical and mental quality of life of pensioners throughout the country and the volunteers who help them." Eitan, who had threatened to remove the party from the coalition had the office not been created, said the office would enable him to implement all the plans he devised to advance the welfare of the elderly. "Since the government was formed, I demanded that this office be created because without it, it would be impossible to implement the many promises we made to out voters," Eitan said. "Once the budget passes on Tuesday, we will be on our way to fulfilling each and every one of them." Herb Keinon contributed to this report