Knesset May Not Approve Budget by December 31 Deadline

Finance Committee chief says lawmakers need time to study package in depth: panel 'won’t be a rubber stamp.'

Knesset Constitution, Law and Justice Committee chairman MK Nissan Slomiansky.
Emil Salman

MK Nissan Slomiansky, the chairman of the Knesset Finance Committee, vowed to conduct in-depth deliberations on the 2015 draft state budget even if it means lawmakers don’t vote on the spending package and the accompanying Economic Arrangements Bill (hok hahesderim) before the end of the year.

Slomiansky, a member of coalition party Habayit Hayehudi, said he felt he had no choice but to order the scrutiny because the cabinet approved the budget without adequate review.

“I was surprised the cabinet approved the budget and the arrangements bill for 2015 in just a few hours. Any intelligent person knows there couldn’t have been any serious in such a short amount of time. ... Especially when the economy is in a slowdown,” Slomiansky said.

“So the responsibility has moved to me as chairman of the finance committee.”

The cabinet met only once to discuss the 2015 budget before approving it and sending it to the Knesset. Usually three or four such sessions are held, at which senior treasury officials are given a chance to address the cabinet members. Moreover, the budget was left to the end of last week’s cabinet meeting, and only five ministers were present.

The cabinet’s deliberations on the budget were originally scheduled for July, and were postponed because of the Gaza war until October. Due to disagreements between Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Finance Minster Yair Lapid they were limited to a single meeting.

By law the Knesset is supposed to have 60 days to deliberate on the budget before voting, but because of the delays in submitting the draft to lawmakers this year Attorney General Yehuda Weinstein permitted approved a truncated time line of 45 days. That gives the Finance Ministry until mid-November to deliver the budget proposal to the Knesset.

“The [finance] committee won’t be a rubber stamp,” Slomiansky said. “I will hold in-depth debate on the budget and the arrangements bill, even if that means we don’t complete them by the end of December 2014 and they continue into January 2015.”

Delaying the vote would add to the uncertainty over the budget. In addition to delays and political infighting, many economists doubt the reliability of its figures . The Bank of Israel and other organizations question the stated deficit target, while the issue of increased military spending remains unresolved.

If the Knesset does not pass the budget by January 1, the government will operate in accordance with this year’s budget, allocating 1/12th of the funds each month until a new budget has been approved.