Smotrich presents budget, slams need to shell out raises for teachers

Carrie Keller-Lynn is a former political and legal correspondent for The Times of Israel

Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich presents the 2023-2024 state budget, set to provide “billions” of shekels to fulfill coalition agreements, among other state priorities.

Setting out the need to fund political promises as one of the budget’s challenges, the finance minister also says the rising inflation rate and debate over public worker salary agreements complicated the budget process.

In particular, Smotrich blasts a “complicated” and hard-fought salary agreement with teachers unions, which added an NIS 4.5 billion shekel commitment to 2023.

“We accept this inheritance and we will deal with it,” he says.

On Friday, the government approved the plan, which allocates NIS 484 billion for 2023 and NIS 514 billion for 2024.

Smotrich says that he plans to bring the two-year budget for its first reading on March 27 and complete its required second and third readings the following week.

Smotrich encourages the government to rally behind the budget, setting aside brewing tensions, some tied to coalition promises and some to policy in the West Bank, the latter to which Smotrich has also contributed

Among possible roadblocks, the two ultra-Orthodox parties secured coalition promises to pass legislation enshrining military exemptions for Torah study before the budget passes.

“I hope the ministers will be responsible, and also the lawmakers” to pass the budget bill,” he says.

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