The parliamentary year starts with Budget Day today. Due to the Cabinet’s outgoing status, it will be less exciting than other years. The political parties are mainly focused on the parliamentary elections on November 22.
During the speech from the throne, the King will discuss the Cabinet’s plans. Minister Sigrid Kaag (Finance) will then present the 2024 Budget. It is primarily a “poor policy” budget because the coalition of VVD, D66, CDA, and ChristenUnie has fallen and can’t make significant policy changes in its caretaker capacity without parliament’s consent.
Where parliament and the Cabinet agree, the government can still make new plans. This year, that concerns improving purchasing power for struggling households. The government can also continue to work on topics like Ukraine and settling damages in Groningen and the benefits scandal.
What we know so far
As per tradition, much of next year’s budget has already leaked. The government is investing 2 billion euros in combating poverty by increasing the child-related budget by 1.1 billion euros and pushing an additional 700 million euros into raising the housing allowance. The Cabinet will pay for this by, among other things, bringing high incomes into the highest tax rate more quickly and increasing excise duties on alcohol and tobacco.
According to the leaked figures, purchasing power will increase by an average of 1.8 percent next year. Furthermore, the national debt will fall to 46.9 percent, but the budget deficit will rise to 2.9 percent – just below the European maximum of 3 percent.
The Tweede Kamer, the lower house of the Dutch parliament, will discuss the plans on Wednesday and Thursday. The parliamentarians will have their chance to speak on the first day. It is expected to turn into a major election debate. Several parties have already indicated they want to expand the budget significantly. Prime Minister Mark Rutte will respond a day later.
Likely Rutte’s last Budget Day
Unless the next Cabinet takes a record time to form, today will be Rutte’s last Budget Day. Despite that, his outgoing Cabinet won’t present a budget that’s just a “routine job,” Rutte said in a press conference earlier this year. His Cabinet has done what is necessary, but it will be a modest budget, mainly focused on ensuring that “people with lower incomes do not fall below zero.”
It is the fourth time Rutte has experienced Budget Day as caretaker Prime Minister. In 2012, after the fall of his first Cabinet, the elections were held just before Budget Day. Queen Beatrix said in her last speech from the throne that the outgoing Cabinet showed “restraint.” Her successor, King Willem-Alexander, repeated the same sentiment in 2017: due to a long formation process after Rutte II’s term in office – the only Rutte government to make it through the full term, there was no new Cabinet yet on the third Tuesday in September.
An even more challenging formation process followed in 2021. According to that speech from the throne, the budget that the outgoing Rutte III Cabinet presented for 2022 was all about the “implementation of current policy.”
The fourth Rutte Cabinet was full of ambitions. Grand plans had to be implemented with a lot of money, but many proposals did not get beyond the drawing board when the Cabinet collapsed in July after just a year and a half in office. The Tweede Kamer gave the Cabinet a relatively large amount of space to continue with its proposals, but the Ministers were still cautious about new plans. According to Rutte, longer-term plans are forged in election manifestos and devised at the formation table after the elections on November 22.
The parliamentarians and senators will start heading to the Koninklijke Schouwburg from the temporary Eerste Kamer and Tweede Kamer buildings at 11:30 a.m. and take their places at 12:45 p.m.
The King and his company will depart with the Glass Carriage from Noordeinde Palace to the Koninklijke Schouwburg at 1:00 p.m., arriving about 15 minutes later. The King will give his speech from the throne, explaining the government’s plans for next year.
The Royals will return to Noordeinde Palace at around 2:00 p.m., after which there will be the traditional “balcony scene” where they’ll wave to the public from the palace’s balcony.
At 3:30 p.m., Minister Sigrid Kaag of Finance will present the suitcase with the 2024 Budget to the Tweede Kamer.
Reporting by ANP and NL Times