The Knesset yesterday approved the two-year state budget for 2011 and 2012. The measure was supported63:47. The budget provides for NIS 348 billion in spending for the coming year and NIS 365 billion for 2012.
The budget vote was preceded by passage of the Economic Arrangements Bill, which contains other legislation pertaining to the budget. That measure was supported by 67 to 43. Among the opponents were Shelly Yachimovich and Daniel Ben Simon of the Labor Party, which is part of the governing coalition.
Members of opposition took MKs from the opposition National Union party to task for supporting the budget, saying the support was due to NIS 20 million provided last week to hesder yeshivas (which combine religious study and military service ) and assurances regarding Beit Yonatan, a building in the predominantly Palestinian Jerusalem neighborhood of Silwan that is home to Jews slated to be evicted. Members of the National Union faction say they received no assurances on the issue. National Union MK Aryeh Eldad voted against the budget.
Voting on the budget took eight hours, with a half-hour break. Members were required to repeatedly cast their votes by raising their hands. Some had difficulty following exactly what was being voted on, and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was seen at one point reading a book. The coalition managed to beat back all of the reservations voiced by the opposition.
Finance Minister Yuval Steinitz said the budget provided for growth, education and support for outlying areas of the country. He said it also addressed social disparities and provided assistance to the weak and the integration of Israel's Arab and ultra-Orthodox populations into the workplace.
He said the budget would provide major support, through the capital investment law, in encouraging the growth of high-tech industry in the Galilee and Negev, and would also provide funds for paving roads. The finance minister stated that the budget provisions also emphasized education, including higher education, and employment growth.
He said the budget provides a NIS 1,600 monthly supplement to low-income citizens and assists what he termed the middle class as well, noting that "someone earning NIS 20,000 a month will take home NIS 1,600 a month more because of tax reductions." He noted that NIS 700 million a year was added in support for working mothers, and the elderly would be getting increased old-age allocations. In short, he concluded, "the budget is good for everyone."
Finance Committee Chairman Moshe Gafni (United Torah Judaism ) called the budget a good one but not perfect. He said it required a lot of compromises, but said the Economic Arrangements Bill was a good one in that it did not provide for objectionable cuts, and those that were proposed were dropped from the final bill. He also noted the importance of a provision encouraging manufacturers abroad to locate their plants in Israel.
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