Lack of Majority on Finance Committee Has Budget Cuts Stalled

The NIS 2 billion budget cut the cabinet approved a month ago is stalled. Finance Minister Yuval Steinitz has yet to submit the proposal for approval at the Knesset Finance Committee, so budget cuts to ministries have not been implemented.

Knesset sources say Steinitz has held off from making the request because he lacks a majority favoring the decision in the committee. The budget cut has been opposed by committee members from many parties including coalition members - Likud, United Torah Judaism, Shas, Labor and Habayit Hayehudi.

Members of ultra-Orthodox parties have announced that they cannot support a NIS 300 million cut to budgeting for yeshivas; that money was promised as part of the coalition agreement.

Finance Committee chairman Moshe Gafni told TheMarker yesterday that he dislikes the proposed across-the-board budget cut because it would hurt areas such as education, housing, welfare and environmental protection. The requested budget cut to yeshivas is unimaginable, he says. Gafni has met with Steinitz a number of times over the past month and has proposed a deal in which only part of the cut would be implemented, while other money that has been budgeted would be allocated instead of cuts.

Gafni confirmed that he is holding talks with Steinitz in an effort to change the structure of the budget cut. "We are in the process of talks," he said. "I don't want to get into a confrontation with the Finance Ministry, and the Finance Ministry doesn't want to get into a confrontation with me."

Sources in the Knesset predict that in light of opposition to the budget cut's current configuration, the Finance Ministry will offer an amended version to the Finance Committee.

The Finance Ministry, meanwhile, said in a statement that the budget cut proposal would be submitted to the committee shortly.