Berliners who find themselves in a crisis that threatens their existence due to the sharp rise in energy prices can hope for support from the state. The leaders of the SPD, Greens and Left agreed on this at the end of their negotiations on the 2022/2023 double budget. The result of the negotiations, which were unanimously described as harmonious, was presented on Monday morning.
According to this, a EUR 380 million reserve for rising energy costs is intended to prevent the currently massively rising costs for electricity, gas and oil – fueled by the war in Ukraine – from overloading public and private households. “We want to take precautions where it hits people hard,” said Left Party leader Anne Helm. SPD colleague Raed Saleh added that he was concerned about the people in the city who could not compensate for the rising costs simply because they did not have the necessary income.
The push to form the reserve, which is also intended to compensate for the cost increase coming to public authorities, came from the ranks of the left-wing faction. Exactly how the funds should be accessed and who will be eligible to apply in the future will be discussed in the coming weeks and initially remained open on Monday.
The hardship fund is part of a package that includes almost 38 billion euros per year and provides for numerous investment – i.e. one-off – expenditures. In the area of education, which is particularly competitive and led by the SPD, the coalition “ignited fireworks,” said Saleh, emphasizing that the provision fund for schools that was missing in the Senate’s draft is now part of the package again. 7.8 million euros are available for this and the coming year. This means that the budget has been expanded by EUR 300,000 compared to the old double budget.
The much larger chunks: An additional 15 million euros are available for the expansion of the day care center, the new construction of schools will be supported with 700 million euros and thus 200 million more than initially planned. “No planned new building will have to be postponed,” said negotiators on Monday morning.
In order to counter the teacher shortage, which is heading towards a peak, an additional 17 million euros are earmarked for teacher training, explained Carsten Schatz, chairman of the left-wing faction. Among other things, the money is to be used to train and deploy multi-professional teams, which, in addition to pedagogical staff, also consist of psychologists and therapists. It is clear that the investments will be linked to the number of graduates, added Schatz.
Green parliamentary group leader Silke Gebel emphasized the scope created for strengthening the city’s health system. The draft in this area, which was already “lush” by the Senate, has been further expanded so that “we can make the healthcare system even more resilient and crisis-proof,” explained Gebel. Investment opportunities of 570 million have been “organized” for public and private hospitals in the city. By far the largest item within the overall budget are so-called credit authorizations. Institutions can take out loans for investments, and the state guarantees and pays the installments.
The “Green Hospital Program” anchored in the budget is intended to enable hospitals to become more ecological by saving energy. A total volume of 22 million euros in 2022 and 32 million euros in 2023 is available for the “eco-package” in the budget, said Gebel. For example, four million euros are earmarked for the care and preservation of the city trees suffering from the climate crisis, and a purchase fund for green spaces will also be continued. Money for the dismantling of the A103 and A104 motorways has been set aside, as has funds for the electrification of the police and fire brigade fleets. The latter is supported with 7.4 million euros.
During the budget negotiations, the expansion of local public transport as part of the desired traffic turnaround, which was quite controversial, is where the coalition is increasing the funds for the expansion of the subway most clearly. Instead of the previous five million euros in two years, 15 million euros will be available for planning new subway lines in the future, said SPD parliamentary group leader Raed Saleh. He explicitly mentioned that the plans for the extension of the U7 “in both directions”, i.e. also to the BER airport, should be pushed forward. The project is controversial, between the coalition partners and even within the SPD.
In addition, the budget for setting up so-called on-call buses is to be increased from three to 13 million euros. These are important in order to bring the traffic turnaround to the outskirts, said Green Party leader Werner Graf. An additional nine million euros are for the expansion of cycle paths, and there are six million euros more for the planned expansion of the tram network.
One of the largest individual budgets in the new household is available for accommodation and care for refugees. The SPD, the Greens and the Left have budgeted 650 million euros for this purpose – and still hope not to need a large part of the money in the first place. Because numerous services are taken over by the federal government, the real budgetary burden should be just over 100 million euros per year, it said on Monday morning. The money is still set to respond to emergencies.
The situation is, just like in the area of rising energy prices, “highly volatile,” it said. Red-green-red focuses on prevention instead of cases of hardship. The money required for this comes from tax revenues, which according to the latest estimates are likely to be significantly better than previously assumed.
The package must be passed by the House of Representatives so that the double budget can come into force and the provisional budget management that has been in force for months can be ended. The vote on this is scheduled for the last plenary session before the summer break on June 23.