Knesset to vote on biggest-ever state budget

Knesset to vote on biggest-ever state budget

If NIS 424.8 billion 2015-16 budget framework fails to pass any of three votes, nation goes to elections

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon attend the weekly cabinet meeting in Jerusalem on August 5, 2015. (Marc Israel Sellem/Flash90/Pool)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon attend the weekly cabinet meeting in Jerusalem on August 5, 2015. (Marc Israel Sellem/Flash90/Pool)

The Knesset is set to cast its first of three votes on the 2015-16 state budget Wednesday.

In a special recess gathering, lawmakers will be voting on the first reading of the budget bill and the accompanying omnibus Arrangements Bill. If any part of the budget gets voted down, under law the Knesset must go to elections.

The budget, as presented by the government, comes to some NIS 424.8 billion ($108 billion) annually, or NIS 41 billion ($10.4 billion) more than in 2015 and the largest ever in Israel’s history, according to the Hebrew daily Israel Hayom.

The new budget covers both 2015 and 2016 because the Knesset never passed a 2015 budget, as Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced new spring elections in December 2014. The government’s spending since January has mostly been done by extending the 2014 budget on a month-by-month basis.

According to the Finance Ministry, the defense budget is set at some NIS 56 billion ($14.3 billion), several billions lower than the Defense Ministry’s request. Talks continue between the defense and finance ministries over the final defense budget, and over the Treasury’s demand for significant reforms, including in the army’s manpower policies.

The National Insurance Institute, Israel’s primary state welfare agency, is slated to spend NIS 37 billion ($9.4 billion). The Health Ministry will spend NIS 29.2 billion ($7.4 billion); the Internal Security Ministry, the umbrella for the police and prisons, NIS 15 billion, of them roughly NIS 10 billion for the police; the Welfare Ministry 6.4 billion; local councils NIS 4.4 billion.

“I’m proud to present to the Knesset a responsible and balanced budget, that is the realization of the government’s priorities,” the daily quoted Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon saying. “This budget has meaningful growth in [spending on] education, health and internal security for Israel’s citizens.”

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