The 2007 budget was approved by the cabinet yesterday after a ten hour deliberation. 19 ministers supported the proposed budget, including all Labor ministers. The only one not to vote in favor was Labor Chairman and Defense Minister Amir Peretz who abstained after his demands for an increase for defense and welfare were not granted fully.
Peretz wanted to create a crisis with Prime Minister Olmert on the issue of raising the minimum wage, but when he discovered he was alone, Peretz decided to vote in favor.
Labor ministers said that they supported the budget because their ministries got a budget increase and a promise for future increases, especially in the Education and Culture ministries.
The four Shas ministers voted against the budget in protest of hurting the poor.
Together with the decision to pass the 2007 budget, the government ministers have also agreed to forgo the expected four percent increase in their salary. PM Olmert accepted the proposal by Deputy PM Shimon Peres to forgo the increase which was to be automatically given on January 1, 2007.
During a meeting with Kadima ministers, Peres said that based on the harsh cuts to the budget, including salary and stipend freezes, it is not right to increase the salaries of the top government officials.
Olmert asked all ministers to follow Kadima’s example and called on Knesset members and public officials to forgo their increases as well.