Supplementary Budget: Lindner’s Change of Mind |

Status: 01/27/2022 10:18 a.m

Credit authorizations carried over from last year to the current year? In the autumn, Lindner rejected such an approach. How do you explain the minister’s change of heart?

By Mario Kubina, ARD Capital Studio

It was a core demand of the FDP in the past election campaign: Germany must return to the debt brake – and as soon as possible. The regulation was suspended as part of the fight against the pandemic. And so party leader Christian Lindner – then still in the opposition – saw the Federal Republic at a crossroads.

Mario Kubina
ARD Capital Studio

Stable finances?

Either Germany will in future be the “advocate of stability and a market economy in Europe” or it will pursue a “more Mediterranean-style fiscal policy”. With the latter, Lindner meant excessive government spending on credit. An approach that he suspected originated in southern Europe – where he thinks it should stay.

After the general election, it became clear: First, that it would end in a traffic light coalition. Secondly, that this tripartite alliance will have to manage the balancing act between investing billions in climate protection and a return to the debt brake so that everyone involved can save face.

Lindner: Debts in stock “not serious”

What to do? Economists suggested using the Corona exemption for the debt brake and thus creating a reserve. An idea that Lindner still had little use for in October. At that time he called such an approach in a ZDF program “not serious”.

Rationale: This would amount to stockpiling existing credit authorizations for a new coalition. However, he believes that the SPD and the Greens are also in favor of “remaining serious about budgetary and financial policy,” said Lindner.

Union sees change of course in financial policy

Such remarks could come at his feet now that he has achieved his goal of becoming finance minister. Because in the eyes of the opposition, his draft for the supplementary budget for 2021 follows exactly the logic that Lindner strictly rejected in the fall. Union parliamentary group leader Mathias Middelberg recently accused the minister in the Bundestag of wanting to “build up debt”.

It is about credit authorizations for last year, with which the federal government cushioned the economic consequences of the Corona crisis. Of this, 60 billion euros were not called up – and they are now to be put into the federal climate fund via the supplementary budget.

doubts about constitutionality

However, such an approach is only compatible with the debt brake of the Basic Law if the investments continue to be made under the heading “Fighting the Corona Crisis”. Because only under this condition could the federal government plan with so many billions on credit. But there are doubts as to whether this connection really exists – or whether Lindner just wants to talk him into it, as the Union says. From Middelberg’s point of view, the minister does not want to use the credit authorizations – contrary to what has been claimed – to deal with the pandemic, “but for completely different purposes – and at a completely different time”.

An accusation that Lindner could easily dismiss if it weren’t for the criticism of the Federal Court of Auditors.

From the point of view of the auditors, the supplementary budget should only serve the purpose of saving the remaining billions for the current year. And that is “constitutionally dubious,” as it says in a statement for the Bundestag. The Union faction also sees it that way, which is why the matter will probably end up at the Federal Constitutional Court. But it will probably take some time before a decision is made in Karlsruhe.

Traffic light majority stands for supplementary budget

The question remains why Lindner offers his critics so many points of attack. Apparently he simply sees no other way of raising the planned climate billions without openly levering out the debt brake. With the supplementary budget, however, the rules should be preserved – at least in terms of form. And with a view to today’s Bundestag vote, he doesn’t have to worry: the traffic light factions are behind Lindner’s plans.

Lindner – from critic to protagonist of credit authorizations

Mario Kubina, ARD Berlin, 27.1.2022 · 09:28

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