The 2024 state budget bill passed its first Riigikogu reading at a late sitting which ran overnight Wednesday to Thursday.
The session started at 2 p.m. Wednesday.
The bill must pass three readings to come into effect, with most of the substantive amendments coming between the first and second reading.
The opposition Conservative People's Party of Estonia (EKRE) has pledged to filibuster legislation in general; the Riigikogu had to work long into the night to process the entire agenda, which in any case has 31 bills listed.
EKRE and the two other opposition parties, Center and Isamaa, proposed rejecting the 2024 state budget bill, finding 32 MPs and favor to 52 against, thus the proposal fell through; in any case Center and Isamaa had both said Wednesday they would not join EKRE in obstructing the budget bill.
The Reform-Eesti 200-SDE government, which drafted the 2024 state budget bill and its accompanying four-year state budget strategy, has a majority of 60 seats at the 101-seat chamber.
Riigikogu committees, party factions and individual MPs, can submit amendments to the 2024 state budget bill between the first and second reading as noted; the deadline for doing so is 5.15 p.m. on Wednesday, November 1.
State budget bills are generally the last major piece of legislation to pass in a given year, shortly before parliament breaks up for its Christmas recess on December 21, slightly later than usual. On the other hand, the state budget bill must pass by March of the year to which it pertains if, according to the Constitution, extraordinary elections are to be avoided – a goal which EKRE leader Martin Helme has set for his party.
The 2024 bill sets state budget revenues at €16.8 billion (compared with €15.58 billion last year) and expenses at €17.7 billion (cf €16.81 billion for 2023).
Revenues have grown 7.7 percent on year, expenses 4.9 percent.
Both revenues and expenses were a little over €13 billion in the 2022 state budget, ie. two years ago.
The structural deficit of the 2024 state budget remains at 1.2 percent of GDP, and the nominal deficit at 2.9 percent of GDP, according to the bill.
The coalition finalized the bill in late September, after which it went to the Riigikogu committees, and then to the main hall for Wednesday's vote.
Following the vote on the state budget bill, a bill on amending the state budget law and other related legislation, initiated by the government, was processed. This changes the rules for the balance of the government sector budget,.
This bill was also facing its first reading, and if the changes come into effect, Estonian domestic budget rules will be brought into line with limits permitted by EU law and international agreements, thus abolishing the stricter requirements that have been in force until now.
The bill's authors argued these had been too restrictive in budgetary planning, especially in the context of major economic crises and exiting these.
Editor: Andrew Whyte