The National Council’s budget marathon began on Tuesday with self-praise from the government and sharp criticism from the opposition. The budget along with the law, which aims to ensure funding of 100 posts for statutory health insurance practitioners, is to be passed on the first day. The budget is not due to be passed until Thursday.
ÖVP Club President August Voginger praised the improved purchasing power and falling inflation in Austria. One visitor apparently saw it differently, throwing a shirt from the gallery into the ÖVP ranks and shouting “shame on you”. The man said it was his “last shirt” – according to the broadcast, he was a minimum pensioner and a member of the “Change” party. Still, Voginger said, “It’s a good development we’re having.” The government continues to invest in “areas of the future” such as child care, science, and changes in the economy.
Green Party leader Sigrid Maurer naturally also received high praise for the budget. It focuses on the topics of climate and change – Maurer said, “It makes a difference whether the Greens govern or not.” He praised sustainable investments in the economy and increased budget support for justice and democracy as well as women, among other things.
Finance Minister Magnus Brunner (ÖVP) said there is reason to be optimistic about the future. He said forecasts for next year will see growth again. Relief measures against inflation must have been effective. At the same time, he acknowledged financial equality is going to be accomplished with more money for health and care, for example. The government is also proving how climate and economic policy can be reconciled.
Opposition parties, which focus mainly on new loans, see it completely differently. The draft budget envisages expenditures of 123.5 billion euros and revenues of 102.6 billion euros for 2024. This caused a loss of 20.9 billion euros.
SPO Club President Philippe Kuchar spoke of record inflation and record debt and criticized the fact that the government has not intervened in the market with price-cutting measures in the face of rising prices. NEOS chairwoman Beate Meinl-Risinger called the budget “forgetful of the future” and criticized the government’s “watering can” policy. Austria does not have a revenue problem but a spending problem, he said, calling for tax cuts. The budget will also miss climate targets.
FPÖ Chairman Herbert Kickel identified a “hara-kiri budget” and “the biggest mountain of debt of all time”. Launching an all-out attack on political competition, he accused the SPO of promoting inflation through its policies. Kickl received calls for making a statement that ex-Chancellor Alfred Gusenbauer (SPO) was a “fat red spider” in his network because of his work at Cigna Holding, founded by René Benko.