Knesset Plenum Begins Debates on State Budget

General view of the assembly hall of the Knesset, during a discussion on the state budget, Monday. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

​In its sitting on Monday, the Knesset Plenum began to discuss the state budget bills. At the start of the debate, the chairs of the committees that prepared the bills for second and third readings presented the main sections addressed by each of the committees.

Commenting on the Municipal Property Tax Fund, Finance Committee Chair MK Rabbi Moshe Gafni (United Torah Judaism) said: “If I live in Kiryat Gat and my business is in Tel Aviv, I pay a high tax in Tel Aviv, but the services I receive in Kiryat Gat are not in line with what I pay. This is a bill that has been circulating in the Finance Ministry for many years, and existed during [the term of] the previous government too. We have to continue to hammer out the issue, so that it will also enable construction of residential apartments, which is something that mayors avoid, preferring to build towers for employment purposes.

“I have a granddaughter who works in high-tech and contributes to the state economy. But the school she attended, which is fully supervised by the Education Ministry and offers all the core subjects, was under-budgeted, [receiving] half of what a state school is budgeted. When they made an agreement with the teachers, her teacher did not receive an increase. My brother, who is more chareidi than me, and fought in the army in the Sultan Yaqoub battle, will get half of what the children of Yair Lapid, who served in Bamachaneh, will get.

“We didn’t hear one word against the chareidim during the latest election period, we go with the right wing because the traditional public is there, and after we see what the left wing is doing to us, that explains exactly why the leading Rabbis told us to go with the right wing,” said Rabbi Gafni.

House Committee Chair MK Ofir Katz (Likud) said: “This budget bears great tidings for the Israeli public —canceling the deduction of disability, old age and income support allowances from unemployment benefits, increasing heating grants, opening the food market to competition and lowering prices, streamlining procedures and expediting construction in the housing field, the Municipal Property Tax Fund Bill that tackles the housing crisis head-on and provides a good solution, which encourages construction for housing and will lead to lowering housing prices. We will monitor the development of the law and its outcome, and will apparently need revisions, because there are three or four specific municipalities for which we will have to make revisions. If we see that the Finance Ministry’s numbers are not appropriate, we will have to make a deeper change.”

Internal Affairs and Environment Committee Chair MK Rabbi Yaakov Asher (United Torah Judaism) said: “People describe us as robbers of the public treasury, calling the budgets a looting spree and depicting us in caricatures in which Der Stürmer would have taken pride. The problem of those who are shouting is that they have long since stopped knowing what they are shouting about. They’re hoarse from slogans, but they have no facts and figures.”

Economic Affairs Committee Chair MK David Bitan (Likud) said: “What was important to me was to reach understandings, and we made many revisions to the Arrangements Bill. We didn’t force anything, it was all by consent; the revisions were made without pressure and for the good of the issue.

“We didn’t make problems, but if the Finance Ministry and the government ministries think that the Economic Affairs Committee will work just for them, they’re mistaken. They also have to work for us. We won’t give up the battle against the cost of living. As of now, the Government and the Finance Ministry — not just in this government, but in previous governments too — have not been doing the job properly in fighting against the cost of living. So we intend to help them do it, not just to sit and behave nicely. Either they help us, or we’ll do it independently. I want to say to the government that there’s a Knesset too, and the Knesset will do the job by hook or by crook. It’s preferable for the government to join forces and to do it with us,” said Bitan.

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