Revised national budget settled

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The Conservative/Progress government managed to secure a majority for its revised national budget on Thursday after winning the support of its cooperating parties, the Christian Democrats and Liberals. An extra NOK 380 million (USD 63 million) was agreed upon in negotiations between the parties, which included more funding for kindergartens, higher education, public transport and the Tromsø Chess Olympiad in August.

Children play in the snow outside a kindergarten. Conservative (Høyre) education spokeswoman Kristin Vinje has reignited the debate over whether children should begin school at five years of age, as in other countries including the US, UK, Australia and New Zealand. PHOTO: Kunnskapsdepartementet

Kindergartens were one of the big winners on Thursday, when the government secured its support parties’ agreement on the revised national budget. The Liberals and Christian Democrats negotiated an extra NOK 175 million for kindergarten placements, about half of the amount the government cut in funding last year. PHOTO: Kunnskapsdepartementet

The original revised budget amount was NOK 1.9 billion. The government will not spend any more of Norway’s oil money to pay for the extra costs, but will instead find the NOK 380 million through cutting carbon quota purchases and from the original budget, because wage growth is likely to be lower than predicted, reported newspaper Aftenposten.

The final negotiated breakdown included an extra NOK 175 million for kindergartens, NOK 10 million for cycle paths, NOK 65 million for public transport reward schemes, NOK 49 million for basic funding for public universities, NOK 12 million for the Chess Olympiad, NOK 15 million for research, and grants for various charity, cultural and health foundations, reported Norwegian Broadcasting (NRK).

“We have managed to keep a good tone, even though sometimes you need to take a break,” said the Christian Democrats’ finance spokesman Hans Olav Syversen.

More for kindergartens
The support parties were satisfied they’d managed to achieve more money for kindergartens through the budget negotiations. The government originally allocated no extra kindergarten funding in the revised budget, despite having already admitted they’d miscalculated the amount of money needed to fund kindergarten places. The government allocated NOK 6,000 in cash support to every one year old in the country last autumn, and assumed that would lead to 4,000 fewer children in kindergartens. As a result they cut funding to municipalities by around NOK 340 million, but surveys showed more, not fewer children wanted a kindergarten place this August.

The parties also secured NOK 10 million for the extension of a scheme providing extra time with kindergarten children from an immigrant background.

“The winners in this budget are higher education, public transport and kindergarten users,” the Liberal’s Terje Breivik told newspaper Aftenposten.

Boat motors and tax-free quotas
Two of the most contentious issues originally proposed in the revised national budget will remain in place. The tax on speed boat motors will be cut, and the duty-free alcohol quota increased for travelers who do not use their tobacco quota. From July 1, the duty free alcohol quota will increase to six bottles of wine for non-smoking shoppers.

Syvertsen said the Christian Democrats did not endorse the quota increase. “It was a little too much for us to swallow,” he said, and pointed out the agreement was made between the other parties.

“But Christian Democrat voters will also get the benefit of it,” the Progress Party’s finance spokesman Gjermund Hagesæter added with a grin.

newsinenglish.no/Emily Woodgate