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Knesset approves interim financial package in absence of state budget

Measures okayed by lawmakers increase the amount of money the government can spend, after parliament dissolved over failure to pass budget

Lawmakers vote against a bill to delay the budget deadline on December 22, 2020 (Danny Shem Tov/ Knesset Spokesperson)
Illustrative: Lawmakers vote against a bill to delay the budget deadline on December 22, 2020 (Danny Shem Tov/ Knesset Spokesperson)

The Knesset on Monday gave final approval to an interim financial package boosting government spending in the absence of a state budget, after new elections were triggered over the failure to pass a budget by last week’s deadline.

The measures okayed by the Knesset included linking the “continuing budget” to the rate of population growth rather than the consumer price index. The change will increase the provisional budget for next year by NIS 4.5 billion to NIS 419 billion ($130.2 billion).

Lawmakers also approved adding a temporary provision to the budget law allowing the government to spend additional funds to address the coronavirus pandemic, beyond those approved for 2021.

Ministries have been operating on a continuing budget based on 2019’s budget, which was approved during 2018. No budget has been passed since then, due to the three consecutive election campaigns between April 2019 and March 2020. Following the formation of the government in May, the budget was held up amid infighting between the Likud and Blue and White parties.

Finance Committee Chairman Moshe Gafni (Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90)

Also Monday, Knesset members agreed not to cut the monthly stipend to yeshiva students as part of the continuing budget resolutions.

Quoting unnamed Finance Ministry sources, the Ynet news site said United Torah Judaism MK Moshe Gafni and Yamina MK Bezalel Smotrich conditioned their support for the continuing budget measures on preserving the stipends, necessitating cuts in education, health, welfare and other areas to fund them in full.

Gafni heads the Knesset Finance Committee, which had to sign off on the continuing budget resolutions before they could come up for their final readings in the Knesset plenum.

The approval of the measures came after the Knesset dissolved over the failure to pass a budget by a December 23 deadline, leading to new national elections being called for March 23, the fourth in under two years.

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