December 21, 2017 / 3:10 PM / a year ago

Italy government wins confidence vote on 2018 budget

ROME (Reuters) - The Italian government on Thursday easily won a confidence vote on its 2018 budget in the lower house Chamber of Deputies, in a step towards approving its financial plans by the end of the month.

The budget aims to lower next year’s fiscal deficit to 1.6 percent of gross domestic product from a targeted 2.1 percent this year and introduces a “Web tax” from 2019, obliging companies to pay a 3 percent levy on some Internet transactions.

The European Commission says the budget may break EU rules because it raises previously agreed deficit targets and does too little to rein in Italy’s public debt, which is the highest in the euro zone after that of Greece as a proportion of economic output.

Brussels will issue a final verdict on the budget in the spring, after Italian national elections which are expected to be held in early March.

The Chamber approved the budget bill by 296 votes to 160.

A confidence vote allows the government to speed up passage of legislation by curtailing debate on proposed amendments. If the government loses such a vote it has to resign, but Prime Minister Paolo Gentiloni has a broad majority in the lower house.

The chamber will hold a final budget vote, which is a procedural formality, later on Thursday or on Friday, before the bill, which was presented to parliament in September, moves on to the upper house Senate for a final reading.

That will most likely be completed on Saturday, and is expected to be the last significant piece of legislation approved before President Sergio Mattarella dissolves parliament and the government sets the date of the election.

Reporting by Gavin Jones; Editing by Hugh Lawson

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