Story of Budget 2024: In the beginning there was a letter


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Status: 05.07.2023 04:55 a.m

Today the cabinet is dealing with the budget for the coming year. The budget planning is accompanied by tensions within the federal government – including public correspondence. A review.

Of course, you can also put it positively: “In view of the fact that so many e-mails are sent, it’s nice if letters are also written.” However, the letters to which the deputy government spokesman Wolfgang Büchner referred in February were tough.

Just on Valentine’s Day, Economics Minister Robert Habeck wrote a letter to “Dear Colleague” Lindner on behalf of the ministries led by the Greens, questioning the key figures for the budget. The Minister of Finance should think about higher income instead of putting the brakes on spending.

There should also be no pre-determinations, for example for the Bundeswehr or the stock pension – as Greens faction vice-vice Andreas Audretsch then emphasized. “It would not be good if you put certain things in front of the brackets and other things are thrown off the priority list. Of course that doesn’t work,” he said.

Smug Lindner, relaxed Scholz

There was already a hint of the dispute that continues to this day – the dispute over basic child security and the question of how much is left for it. The Minister of Finance addressed by Habeck reacted smugly to the unusual letter: Christian Lindner wrote that he was relieved – of course also to the “Dear Colleagues” – that the ministries led by the Greens did not question the Basic Law.

He was referring to the debt brake, from which Lindner believes that there should not be an exception again after the end of Corona. “The key figures of the budget are clear; in the long run we cannot spend more than we take in,” said the finance minister.

The public correspondence between Habeck and Lindner was characteristic of the discussions that were to follow. Because of the differences in opinion, Lindner had to postpone the official budget figures that form the framework for spending. Chancellor Olaf Scholz took it easy: In recent years, the announcement of the key figures has often been postponed. “Even when I was finance minister. That never caused a lot of excitement, not now either – at least not for me.”

Ministry of Finance prevails

Then Lindner even had to do without the benchmarks entirely and ask the chancellor for assistance in the subsequent budget talks with the individual ministries. After all, the ministries had all demanded an additional 70 billion euros – while Lindner had to struggle with a budget deficit of almost 20 billion euros. In the end, the Minister of Finance prevailed. Even the Secretary of Defense receives significantly less than hoped for.

And for the basic child security, Lindner only set two billion for the following year. “What we have to do is secure children’s future – by not permanently overburdening the state in its financing options,” he said.

The Greens insist, however, that something is added to basic child security. They may make that clear in a budget memo. But even if Lindner’s draft goes through the cabinet today without comments, the whole thing is not yet complete. The Bundestag has the last word on the budget. And there too – see the Heating Act – there can be lively debates within the traffic light coalition.

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