Budgets for 2020, 2021 vetoed over funds for municipalities
The implementation bill sets the main source of funds for municipalities - the per-capita sum - at EUR 589 for 2020 and EUR 588 for 2021, whereas the councillors believe the sums should by some EUR 70 higher, at EUR 659 and EUR 668.
Trying to dissuade them from vetoing the bill, Saša Jazbec from the Finance Ministry said if a veto was imposed and the bill failed to get endorsed again in the lower chamber, the 2020 budget would not be implemented, meaning the per-capita sum would be even lower, at this year's level.
The councillors agreed the per-capita sum was the highest ever, just as are the two state budgets, but municipalities' expenses were also growing very fast.
Councillor Bojan Kekec for instance argued the government should have provided the money for public sector pay rise from the budget instead of putting it on the shoulders of municipalities.
The pay rise was agreed last year and implemented this year, with no additional funds provided for municipalities for higher wages.
Municipalities are forced to spend their own development funds to finance the services they are required to provide by law, said Milan Ozimič, head of the group representing local communities in the upper chamber.
He also criticised the government for setting the per-capita sum unilaterally, but Jazbec said the funding was set to comply with the balanced-budged rule.
Councillor Franci Rokavec criticised the government for ignoring municipalities.
He said municipalities had not asked for higher funds during the crisis, while the governments showed no understanding for municipalities at a time of economic growth.
The government says the budgets are development-oriented, but Ozimič said they would definitely not provide for the country's balanced development.
Meanwhile, the councillors also unanimously vetoed a budget bill that limits wage costs in the public sector and envisages a 6.5-euro across-the-board increase in pensions in December 2020 in case GDP growth exceeds 2.5%.
The bill was adopted in its current form at the proposal of the junior coalition Alenka Bratušek Party (SAB) after the original plan had envisaged a 1% increase, or more if GDP growth was higher.
The lump-sum increase was however quickly meet with opposition, in particular from the Association of Pensioners (ZDUS), which argues that a percentile increase is demanded by the pensions act and that worker and employer contributions to the pension purse were also calculated in terms of shares.
"This is the first time in history that pensions will be adjusted in the form of a nominal sum," National Council member Branko Šumenjak pointed out, adding this was unacceptable.
The councillors argued this undermined the systemic principle in line with which pensions depend on the length of the period during which contributions for them had been paid in and on wages that served as a basis.
Saša Jazbec of the Finance Ministry explained that the government was against the lump-sum solution, but would nonetheless push for the bill to be passed again.
She pointed out that the bill also included cuts to the annual public sector wage bill agreed with public sector trade unions and that failure to pass it as a whole would create a EUR 64 million shortfall in the budget.
The National Assembly will now have to vote on the bills again. At least 46 votes will be needed to override the vetoes.
However, this should not be a problem, as the minority government had both passed last week with the help of an opposition party and two minority MPs in 48:41 votes.