Budget talk at Hart but fair: Brinkhaus: “Take the panic out a bit”

Budget talk at Hart but fair
Brinkhaus: “Take the panic out a bit”

By Marko Schlichting

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According to the Federal Constitutional Court’s ruling, there is a huge gap in the federal government’s budget. In the ARD talk show “Hart aber fair” the guests discuss how the budget hole could be plugged.

Citizens, politicians and business have been waiting for this for a long time. When the Bundestag meets this Tuesday, there will only be one item on the agenda: the budget gap caused by the ruling of the Federal Constitutional Court. Chancellor Olaf Scholz will first make a government statement, then there will be arguments. In the ARD talk show “Hart aber fair” the guests anticipated the discussion a little. For example, the debt brake, which is to be subsequently suspended this year.

“I understand that this raises questions,” says deputy FDP parliamentary group leader Konstantin Kuhle, “because the debt brake is an important part of our financial constitution.” Politics must be measured against this every year. The debt brake should now be suspended for the entire current financial year, which ends in a few weeks. “If you don’t believe that we had an emergency situation in 2023, you should go back to the beginning of this year and ask the hospitals or the many citizens who were very worried about whether they would get through the winter safely “says Kuhle. SPD politician Ralf Stegner is also in favor of suspending the debt brake, which is intended for “normal times”. But Germany had to overcome various crises. Nobody would claim that these are normal times, emphasizes Stegner.

It is questionable, however, whether the supplementary budget would actually stand up before the Federal Constitutional Court. Journalist Henrike Rossbach from the “Süddeutsche Zeitung” is not so sure about this. However, she also states that the Karlsruhe judges would only deal with it if a lawsuit was filed against it. And here the former Union parliamentary group leader Ralph Brinkhaus has some good news: “We will not complain.” However, Brinkhaus and Kuhle advocate that the debt brake should take effect again next year.

No more electricity and gas price caps

A few days ago, Finance Minister Lindner announced that the electricity and gas price brake would expire on January 1st, i.e. in the middle of winter, when there is a lot of heating. Originally, this wasn’t supposed to end until the beginning of March, when the cold days are almost over. But Konstantin Kuhle justifies the suspension of the measure, which was to be paid for from the Climate and Transformation Fund (KTF), which was declared null and void by the Federal Constitutional Court, in his own way: “Because prices have stabilized on the energy markets.” But that can change again. That’s why Kuhle promises: “If a different situation arises in the coming year, then of course we have to take action again.” It is already important for the FDP politician: You can no longer afford everything and you have to set priorities.

For Wolfgang Weber from the Association of the Electrical and Digital Industry (ZVEI), these are clear: the companies he represents are now making investments in the future, he says. “It’s about the question: How does this country manage the transformation? The industry is ready, but actually expects that what was promised economically will now be kept.” The economy therefore continues to rely on the support of the federal government.

This also applies to companies that now want to relocate to East Germany. Chip manufacturer Infineon wants to build a factory in Dresden – for a billion euros in subsidy from the federal government. WSMC, the largest chip manufacturer in the world, is even set to receive a five billion euro subsidy so that it can also set up shop in Dresden. And the government even wants to raise 10 billion for the global giant Intel – for a plant in Magdeburg. But can the federal government still keep these promises? “I can’t promise that today,” said Kuhle on “Hart aber fair”.

Discussion about citizens’ money

It is important to promote the economy, it creates jobs, and that is an investment in the future, according to all guests. To achieve this, savings must be made elsewhere. For example, when it comes to citizen’s allowance, which Brinkhaus would like to reduce so that the difference to the people who work would be greater. However, this cannot be done with the SPD. Ralf Stegner believes that the gap between citizens’ benefit and the minimum wage can also be increased by increasing wages overall.

Kuhle has other ideas: He would like to save money on subsidies and is proposing a Europe-wide kerosene tax. He would also like to discuss raising the retirement age and wonders whether Ukrainian refugees should automatically receive citizen’s benefits when they enter the country.

Whatever savings options there are in the end, Brinkhaus is optimistic: “A good finance minister and a good opposition can manage it.” There will be both funding measures and a constitutional budget next year. “It’s not like a meteorite has hit, it’s just that we have a few challenges.” And a little later he appeals: “We should reduce the panic a bit.”

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