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Knesset OKs first reading of 2023-24 state budget

The budget must pass by May 28 or the government falls.

Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich at the Knesset in Jerusalem, March 21, 2023. Photo by Yonatan Sindel/Flash90.
Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich at the Knesset in Jerusalem, March 21, 2023. Photo by Yonatan Sindel/Flash90.

The Knesset plenum on Tuesday approved the first reading of the state budget for the years 2023 and 2024.

The $171 billion (NIS 611 billion) 2023 budget advanced in a 40-32 vote. The 2024 budget, at a proposed cost of some $184 billion (NIS 654 billion), passed the initial vote 41-32.

Next, the two bills head to the House Committee where they will be assigned a committee for revisions before heading back to the plenum for the second and third (final) readings needed to become law. The 2023 budget must be approved by May 28 or else the government automatically falls and an early election is held.

The accompanying Economic Arrangements Bill for 2023 and 2024 was also passed on first reading, by a roll-call vote of 48-44. It addresses transportation, education, construction, the environment, agriculture, finance and natural gas, among other topics.

“I congratulate my fellow members of the coalition for approving the state budget and the economic plan for the years 2023-2024 in the first reading,” said Israeli Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich.

“We have our eyes on one thing only—the welfare of the citizens of Israel. All of them. This is a responsible budget that is biased towards infrastructure and growth, and we do everything that we can to maintain Israel’s economy and work for the welfare of its citizens. I am proud of this budget,” he said.

Until the new budget is approved, the government ministries will continue to be funded under the framework of the 2022 version.

Israel posted its first budget surplus in 35 years in 2022, at 0.6% of the gross domestic product. However, the forecasts for this fiscal year are more pessimistic. S&P Global Ratings projects a deficit of 2% of GDP for 2023.

Separately, Smotrich on Tuesday submitted for Cabinet approval a cancelation of the tax on sugary drinks introduced by the previous coalition.

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