TALLINN - Parliament completed the second reading of the 2005 budget on Thursday despite tremendous opposition that had paralyzed the legislator's work for a week.
The oppositional Center Party, Pro Patria Union and Social Democratic Party had proposed to break off the reading but were rejected by a vote of 48-28.
Previously the Center Party had resorted to delaying tactics by taking 10-minute breaks before each vote already last week and continued until all the 225 amendments to the bill had been voted on. The party explained its obstructionist policy by saying it had wanted to defend voters' interests.
Vilja Savisaar, chairwoman of the faction, said the lowering of the income tax rate planned into the next year's budget marks a turning point after which the living standard of a large part of families in Estonia will drop.
"The income tax reform will bring in its wake higher indirect taxes and lower-quality public service," Savisaar said. "The 2005 state budget means for the tax-payer increasingly poorer-quality education and medical care."
She said the Center Party was after an extra 40 million kroons (2.56 million euros) from the 2005 budget for school meals for children.
Head of the standing Finance Committee, Andres Lipstok from the coalition Reform Party, told the Baltic News Service that the third and final reading of the budget could take place on Dec. 7 or 8 depending on the decision of the parliamentary board.
Filibusters can not be used in the third reading since by law amendments that fail to win the support of the government and the finance committee are not put to the vote, Lipstok explained.