June 28, 2018 / 2:44 AM / 3 months ago

German budget committee approves balanced 2018 spending plan

BERLIN (Reuters) - The budget committee of the German parliament early on Thursday approved a 343.6 billion euro ($397.4 billion) balanced budget plan for 2018 that boosts spending by nearly 4 percent from 2017 without incurring any new debt.

FILE PHOTO - German Chancellor Angela Merkel speaks during the 2018 budget debate at the lower house of parliament Bundestag in Berlin, Germany, May 16, 2018. REUTERS/Hannibal Hanschke

The agreement came after a marathon session that lasted almost 14 hours, with members setting aside a dispute over migration that threatens to tear Chancellor Angela Merkel’s “grand coalition” apart unless other European Union states agree to more equitably deal with an influx of refugees.

Eckhardt Rehberg, budget spokesman for the conservative bloc, said the agreement was clear evidence the ruling coalition retained the ability to act.

While avoiding new debt, the committee’s budget plan boosts investment by 2.8 billion euros to 39.8 billion euros from the 37 billion euros earmarked in the budget unveiled by Social Democratic Finance Minister Olaf Scholz in May.

The budget also funds significantly more jobs in security, including 3,075 more positions for Germany’s federal police and 525 more for the federal criminal office, Rehberg said.

The new budget plan will be presented to the full Bundestag, or lower house of parliament, for a vote next week, he said.

Defence Minister Ursula von der Leyen and Development Minister Gerd Mueller, both conservatives, had objected in writing to their respective budgets, but the committee did not add funding beyond the level in Scholz’s initial plan.

Both ministries are pushing for increases in subsequent years. Scholz is expected to present the 2019 budget to Merkel’s cabinet at the end of next week.

Reporting by Tom Koerkemeier and Andrea Shalal; Editing by Richard Borsuk

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