MPs will spend the next two days debating the caretaker government’s 2024 spending plans in what commentators widely regard as the start of the election campaign.
Normally the budget debate, or Algemene Politieke Beschouwing, is considered to be the most important debate of the year, during which opposition parties attempt to squeeze out more concessions in return for their support.
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This time, with an election just two months away, prime minister Mark Rutte and his outgoing administration are likely to come under fire from all sides, as the parties all seek to up their profiles ahead of the vote.
Henri Bontenbal, new leader of the coalition Christian Democrats, has come up with a plan to bring in a tax on private jets which, he says, could raise to €260 million. The money, he says, should be used to reduce energy bills paid by families and small firms.
The VVD, Mark Rutte’s own party, has called on the cabinet not to end the 20 cents a litre tax cut on petrol, which is due to come to a close in January. Without it, the cost of a litre of Euro95 will go up to around €2.50. The plan to keep the discount can count on majority support.
In addition, D66, which opposes the petrol plan, wants to cut taxes for middle-income households and increase childcare benefits.
Both the VVD and D66 plans, the NRC points out, will be difficult for the two parties’ new leaders, Dilan Yesilgöz and Rob Jetten, who are currently part of the cabinet and will have to stay on the sidelines.
Meanwhile, ChristenUnie, the fourth coalition party, has joined up with the new left-wing opposition grouping of the PvdA and GroenLinks to call for more measures to boost spending power for low-income families, including a hike in the minimum wage.
They want to pay for the package by increasing the tax on banks and large firms. Three ChristenUnie ministers were involved in writing the budget, which the party’s MPs are now criticizing.
Rutte told the parliamentary press on Tuesday afternoon that he expected a raft of plans from MPs. “That is what happens when there is an election,” he said. “Parties are looking to profile themselves.”
Of the party leaders set to win most seats in the election, Caroline van der Plas of BBB and Pieter Omzigt of NSC will have the most opportunity to generate attention for their cause.
Frans Timmermans, leader of the PvdA/GroenLinks combine, will not be able to take part in the debate at all, as he is not an MP.
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