After Compromises, MKs Prepare to Vote on the Budget

Though the coalition is expected to win, many MKs are protesting what they view as oversights in the document.

The Knesset is due to vote Wednesday night on the Economic Arrangements Bill - legislation to ensure that the parties in the governing coalition agree to the annual budget. According to Israeli law, early elections are called if the government fails to pass the budget.

The Knesset is scheduled to vote Thursday on the NIS 300 billion national budget for 2008. Though the governing coalition is expected to win, many MKs are protesting what they consider to be oversights in the document.

The coalition expects to win because of concessions it has made: It agreed to cancel health taxes for stay-at-home parents and leave welfare allowances uncut. It had previously sought a cut of 4 percent.

Despite the compromise, several coalition MKs said they would vote against the budget. Ephraim Sneh from Labor said he objected because the budget does not address the Iranian threat.

Yoram Marciano, also from Labor, said he would object unless Labor makes sure there is enough for rehabilitation programs for people in poor neighborhoods. Labor's Shelly Yachimovich said she would abstain.

The coalition is seeking to hurry the proceedings for the budget and arrangements bill, and conclude the votes as early as tonight, coalition sources told Haaretz. Likud faction chairman Gideon Sa'ar, however, said that all parties agreed to hold the discussions over two days. Sa'ar added that parliament needed at least two days to ratify the budget bills.

Likud MK Moshe Kahlon wrote Prime Minister Ehud Olmert on Tuesday to ask him to reconsider the decision not to increase the minimum wage by NIS 140 over the next eight months. Nineteen other Knesset members signed Kahlon's letter - both from the coalition and opposition.

"This move constitutes severe damage to many sectors of the population who earn a minimum wage," Kahlon's letter reads. "NIS 140 may seem like a small addition, but to many this is a substantial increase. Not including the hike damages thousands of households who need this addition.

The treasury has, by contrast, agreed to Likud MK Reuven Rivlin's proposal to allocate NIS 15 million toward treating battered wives, and another NIS 15 million for children at risk, as Yachimovich had requested.