Treasury: Cabinet Will Pass Budget

Treasury officials expect the cabinet to approve the 2009 state budget on Sunday, with yes votes from the ministers of Kadima, the Pensioners party and perhaps some Labor ministers, without changing the treasury's 1.7% rise in spending targets. A few changes might be made, however. The treasury also expects a compromise over the defense budget.

Finance Minister Roni Bar-On and senior treasury officials yesterday continued their lobbying campaign among cabinet members from all parties in an attempt to win their support for the draft budget. The main bone of contention is how to slice away another NIS 7 billion.

Bar-On is expected to meet today with Communications Minister Ariel Atias of Shas and Justice Minister Daniel Friedmann. The treasury is expected to continue its efforts tomorrow and on Sunday morning, before the cabinet convenes.

Transportation Minister Shaul Mofaz of Kadima is likely to vote against the budget in its present form, as he did last year. Agriculture Minister Shaul Somhon and Social Affairs Minister Isaac Herzog will probably either approve it or abstain.

Treasury budgets director Ram Belinkov and his Defense Ministry counterpart Maharan Frozenfar continued their dialogue yesterday. The treasury insists that a NIS 1.3 billion addition to the 2009 defense budget be delayed until 2010, while the Defense Ministry is standing its ground.

Officials there say the Finance Ministry tries the same trick almost every year. The bean counters, for their part, argue that all ministries are actually getting more money next year than in 2008.