Reform Party could resort to filibustering family benefits bill

Kaja Kallas.
Kaja Kallas. Source: Riigikantselei

Prime Minister Kaja Kallas does not rule out use of obstruction tactics against coalition partner the Center Party's bill to hike family benefits.

The government press conference on Thursday touched on draft legislation to amend the Family Benefits Act that has been causing tensions in the cabinet and Riigikogu lately and is set for its first reading on Monday. "My proposal was to try and find a solution inside the coalition. If our coalition partner expresses no such wish, it appears they have no desire to maintain this coalition," Kallas offered.

She said Center has not answered Reform's question of where it plans to get the money for the planned hike. "Assuming additional obligations of €300 million a year caps all other ideas. That is why we plan to do everything we can, whereas we (Reform Party MPs – ed.) can also use obstruction, to make sure the bill does not become law in its current form that spells massive spending," Kallas said. "However, if this continues, the government will cease to exist in this form as there will be other political majorities. I hope that MPs will arrive at common sense in that we must not engage in wide-ranging populism during crises and must handle taxpayer money responsibly," she added.

The premier said that it is not Reform's business to try and smooth over the situation or meet its coalition partner half-way in terms of child benefits. "I'm thinking of another process: what the West could do to deescalate a certain situation. Look, we haven't created this situation, which is why we also cannot deescalate it. The latter can be done by those responsible for the situation in the first place. We are prepared to discuss every state budget need, including child benefits. Let us look at the big picture – the amount of money available. I say again that we cannot borrow to facilitate a €300 million hike in fixed costs," Kallas said, adding that if the plan is to hike taxes, it would be fair for those planning additional expenses to order them.

Minister of Health and Labor Tanel Kiik (Center) was less than happy with Kallas' statement. "I would refrain from comparing a family benefits hike and Center's conduct to the war in Ukraine. They are night and day. We are talking about killing people in one case and hiking support for families in the other," Kiik protested. "Naturally, we need to find and agree on ways to pay for child benefits. We are talking about 1.5 percent of our annual budget. It is a considerable chunk of the budget and requires deliberation, while expenses of this magnitude have been introduced before," Kiik said.

The government sitting on Thursday saw decisions made on 12 matters. Kallas highlighted as important that the government approved two bills tied to confidence motions.

One on merging the fleets of the Police and Border Guard Board (PPA) and the Estonian Defense Forces (EDF) and the other on products and services accessibility, geared toward helping people with special needs cope independently.

The government has decided to tie the bills to a vote of confidence, giving Conservative People's Party (EKRE) filibustering as the reason. "Unfortunately, there is a party in the Riigikogu (EKRE – ed.) that has set about torpedoing any and all bills – they have introduced 600 motions to amend. That is why we decided to use the rather extraordinary measure," Kallas said.

It is unfortunate for delegates who wish for a real debate, but we had no other option," the PM added.


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Editor: Marcus Turovski

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