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Simson: We are close to agreeing on state budget

Minister of Economic Affairs and Communication Kadri Simson (Center) during a recess of Thursday's Cabinet meeting. Sept. 14, 2017.
Minister of Economic Affairs and Communication Kadri Simson (Center) during a recess of Thursday's Cabinet meeting. Sept. 14, 2017. Source: (ERR)

Minister of Economic Affairs and Communications Kadri Simson (Center) told ERR during a recess of Thursday's Cabinet meeting that the ruling coalition is very close to agreeing on the 2018 state budget.

"We are very close to reaching an agreement," Simson said. "There are no very big arguments. Right now we are seeking financial cover and expenditures are being rearranged in matters that have come up recently."

According to the minister, one example of an issue that remains yet unresolved is that the government assumes that the national minimum wage will be raised next year and there is a large number of people in the state sector who receive low pay, which means that additional funding must be found for pay raises.

In the cases of large and expensive issues, such as tax reform, the restoration of local governments' revenue base and additional funding for the health insurance fund, Simson said consensus had been previously achieved already.

Sugar tax still undecided

The minister was unable to say what will become of the tax on sweetened beverages which was passed by the Riigikogu before being vetoed by President Kersti Kaljulaid.

"This tax has not yet been signed into law and we must proceed based on this," said Simson. "It is there in the working version [of the state budget], but the budget to be sent to the Riigikogu must be covered by valid tax changes."

Minister of Health and Labour Jevgeni Ossinovski (SDE) told ERR that he was not surprised that Pro Patria and Res Publica Union (IRL) chairmman Helir-Valdor Seeder was against the tax, however no other agreement has thus far been reached.

"The chairman of IRL has previously stated that he did not like this tax," said Ossinovski. "Whether you like something has its place in shaping policy, but agreements are important too. We don't have any other agreement but the one signed previously."

Editor: Aili Vahtla

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