Committee rejects 2019 budget amendments filed by opposition
Debating the document as the last parliamentary working body before the next week's plenary vote, the committee rejected all 34 amendments filed by the Democrats (SDS), New Slovenia (NSi) and National Party (SNS).
In addition to infrastructure projects and support activities in the fields of labour, the family and social affairs, the SDS wanted that the government earmark an extra EUR 15m for investments in school and sport infrastructure.
The proposals from the NSi that an additional EUR 10m is earmarked for the maintenance of cultural heritage sites, and EUR 5m each for investments in schools and kindergartens have also failed to garner sufficient support.
The party is not satisfied either with the amount of funds earmarked for the Government Office for Slovenians Abroad, which it would increase by EUR 500,000.
The three parties also proposed that additional funds be earmarked for the development of a number of road sections, but all proposals were rejected by the committee.
The revised 2019 budget, which was discussed by the other parliamentary bodies at the beginning of February, increases the planned revenue by 6.2% to EUR 10.35bn, and expenditure by 4.8% to EUR 10.16bn.
The budget is thus expected to have EUR 193.6m in surplus by the end of the year, which is 0.4% of Slovenia's gross domestic product (GDP), said Finance Minister Andrej Bertoncelj as he presented the documents to the MPs.
The minister said that the budget was stable and development-oriented, and that it represented the foundation for structural measures. The main priorities are healthcare, science, infrastructure and drawing of the EU funds.
Bertoncelj also pointed to the objective of reducing general government debt and noted that the state of public finances was improving, which positively affected economic growth. This also shows in increased tax revenue, he added.
However, the Fiscal Council, the body advising the government how to follow the golden fiscal rule, has warned that the planned expenditure is too high, while the budget has also been criticised by the opposition.
The SDS deputies said at today's session that the budget did not ensure medium-term stability of public finances, and that it did not contain any measures which would reduce structural deficit.
The NSi is reserved to the budget too, with MP Ljudmila Novak noting that while expenditure was increasing, there were no measures which would bring long-term revenue to the budget.
"Revenue will be really high until the economic growth is high, but we know that the economy is already cooling down, particularly in Germany, on which Slovenian exporters depend greatly."
Anja Bah Žibert (SDS) does not agree that the budget is development-oriented as it "has no true objectives at all", while Jani Ivanuša (SNS) warned against excessive expenditure as the expected economic growth is only an estimate.
Jože Lenart of the ruling Marjan Šarec Party (LMŠ) retorted that "you cannot develop by saving money", noting that the additional expenditure would go for development and reforms dictated by the demographic trends.
Matjaž Han of the coalition Social Democrats (SD) said that "we never had so much money than now in the last 15, 20 years", adding that this was also a result of policies of the previous governments, not only of the current one.
The document was also endorsed by the Alenka Bratušek Party (SAB) as it gives more funds for municipalities, public sector and pensioners, as well as healthcare, research and social affairs.
Also promising support for the budget is the opposition Left as the partner of the minority coalition, with MP Luka Mesec assessing that it was both socially- and development oriented, which was something Slovenia needed at the moment.
However, the coordinator of the party said earlier today that an agreement was expected to be signed between the Left and the coalition on cooperation for this year before the vote on the budget, which is to take place on Wednesday.
The committee also went through changes to the act implementing the 2018 and 2019 budgets, which accompanies the revised 2019 budget. Minister Bertoncelj said that the document reduces the required amount of borrowing by the state.
Compared to the current act, the amount for 2019 is reduced by some EUR 1.4bn, the minister told the MPs, with EUR 1.89bn being required for the implementation of the budget instead of EUR 3.26bn.
The document takes into account the planned budget surplus of EUR 193.6m, EUR 570.5m in pre-financing in 2018 and the EUR 602.6m in proceeds from the privatisation of the NLB bank last November.
The state has already secured a part of the needed EUR 1.89bn with a EUR 1.5bn bond issue in January.