In marathon meeting, budget clears hurdles, sees further changes in Knesset Finance Committee

Meeting drags on for 14 hours in attempt by opposition to waste time; at one point lawmakers all break down in laughter.

Lapid looking sullen 370 (photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem/The Jerusalem Post)
Lapid looking sullen 370
(photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem/The Jerusalem Post)
Portions of the budget and economic arrangements bill cleared a set of hurdles on their way to approval overnight Wednesday and Thursday, as the Knesset Finance Committee approved parts of the law and Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu agreed to take up changes at Sunday’s cabinet meeting.
The budget must be passed in its final reading in the Knesset by the end of the month, otherwise new elections will be called automatically.
Among the new changes added to the law after a dramatic tax and spending overhaul were agreed to on Wednesday was a further slight reduction of middle class tax rates at the behest of the opposition.  The new law would reduce the tax increase for those earning between NIS 14,000-22,000 a month from 1.5 percent to 1.4%.
While Finance Minister Yair Lapid originally proposed an across-the-board income tax increase of 1.5%, he and Finance Committee Chairman Nissan Slomianksy agreed to a more progressive scheme on Wednesday, in which taxes for those making under NIS 14,000 would increase just 1%, and taxes for those making over NIS 22,000 would increase 2%.
Among the other measures approved were an increase in the corporate tax rate from 25% to 26.5% starting in 2014 and a cancellation of the taxes on housewives.
The Finance Committee meeting lasted 14 hours, until 4 a.m. Thursday, with the opposition using time-wasting tactics in hopes of catching the coalition off-guard in votes.
For example, when the committee's legal adviser announced the Economic Arrangement Bill's name, Meretz leader Zehava Gal-On submitted an objection, requesting that the bill be named "Laws that increase the burden on the middle class and weaker sectors."
When her suggestion was voted down, she then brought another name to a vote, "there is no future for the middle class," a pun on Yesh Atid, which means there is a future. Opposition parties asked for and were given a 15-minute break to discuss Gal-On's proposal.
At several points, MKs were unable to contain their laughter at the banter between lawmakers, and the overnight meeting was held up yet again.
It took the committee nine hours to approve the bill's name and purpose alone. Video created by Omri Nahmias.