No guarantees on spending power, PM

Prime minister Jan Peter Balkenende on Thursday refused to guarantee that people with chronic health problems will not be worse off next year.

Speaking on the second day of debate on the government’s 2009 spending plans, Balkenende repeated earlier assurances that ministers will monitor the situation.
According to calculations by the government’s think-tank CPB, changes to tax breaks on medical expenses mean some people will be worse off next year. The cabinet had promised that everyone will have more to spend.
Balkenende also used his speech to attack Geert Wilders, leader of the anti-immigration party PVV who on Wednesday accused the government of not doing enough to stop ‘Moroccan colonists’.
The Netherlands is divided into two groups, Wilders said, ‘the subsidy-grasping’ intellectuals with their ‘clinging friends’ and the ordinary folk, who are suffering under high taxes and ‘street terrorism’.
Wilders was wrong to claim his was the only party which knew what the real problems in society were, Balkenende was reported as saying: ‘I know the reality just as well.’
Mark Rutte, leader of the opposition free-market Liberals, used the debate to again accuse the government of ‘basing its budget on sand’, in particular its decision to spend more of the revenue from natural gas sales than is customary.
‘You are taking big risks for subsequent generations and you are feeding the inflation monster,’ Trouw reported him as saying.
Budget highlights

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