Italy’s Chamber of Deputies approved Prime Minister Matteo Renzi’s tax-cutting 2015 budget on Sunday (30 November), and it will now move on to the Senate, where it must be passed by the end of the year.
The budget, which Renzi says will pull Italy out of its third recession in six years, is at the centre of a tussle with the European Commission, which says it does not do enough to reduce the country’s huge public debt.
The lower house passed the budget by 324 votes to 108 after three confidence votes over the weekend.
Italian governments may often resort to votes of confidence, which force it to resign if they are lost, to truncate debate and speed legislation. Renzi, who has a fractious ruling coalition, has used them far more frequently than any recent predecessor.
The budget is designed to cut business taxes and income taxes for low earners, partly funded by new government borrowing, while aiming to keep Italy’s fiscal shortfall just under the European Union’s ceiling of 3 percent of gross domestic product.
Since Renzi hiked the 2015 budget deficit target to 2.9 percent of GDP from 1.8 percent, when he presented the draft package in September, there have been doubts over whether it will be accepted by Brussels.
Last week the EU Commission said Italy’s budget, along with those of France and Belgium, was at risk of breaching its rules on running sound public finances and said it would issue a final decision in March.
That position came even after Renzi had reluctantly amended his original budget plan in the face of the Commission’s objections, offering some 4.5 billion euros of additional deficit cuts worth around 0.3 percent of GDP.
A Commission technical document seen by Reuters on Friday (28 November) said Italy needed to find new belt-tightening measures worth up to 4.8 billion euros, because the extra measures proposed by Renzi would not have the desired effect.
The European Commission has asked France and Italy for more information regarding their 2015 budget plan.
However, French President François Hollande ruled out making bigger savings than the unprecedented €21 billion already planned.
France is cutting its public deficit less quickly than promised to EU partners, raising the chances that the European Commission will reject its 2015 budget and ask for amendments.