The red-red-green coalition agrees on a supplementary budget. Among other things, free elementary school meals and school tickets will be financed.
Berlin is investing, including in food for elementary school children Photo: dpa
When there is money to spend, life can be easy for politicians. The leaders of the SPD, the Left Party and the Greens presented themselves on Monday accordingly satisfied and in agreement. Thanks to higher tax revenues, Berlin’s 2018 income exceeds spending by 2 billion euros. And because further surpluses are also expected for next year, the coalition leaders have agreed on a supplementary budget for the two years. Around 1.2 billion euros are to be spent additionally or reserved for investments, and another billion is to go toward debt repayment.
Investments will focus on infrastructure for families, urban development, security and ecology. It was reserved for SPD faction leader Raed Saleh to present his favorite concern: After the abolition of fees for kindergarten and after-school care, now comes the next step on the way to completely free education.
Thus, from the coming school year, lunch for elementary school children in grades one to six will be free; the quality is also to be improved. "I know how it feels to watch other kids eat," Saleh said.
Because he apparently also knows how it feels when only the other kids can ride the bus and train, the free BVG student ticket is being introduced. 29 million euros is worth that to the Senate for the second half of 2019. According to Saleh, the idea is to show families with children that the city cares about them. 9 million additional for playgrounds goes in the same direction.
Buying up land
"Buying back the city" is the slogan claimed by the Left Party. True to this motto, more money is flowing into the purchase of land and apartments. The purchase fund for land has been filled with 150 million euros so far, and now another 50 million will be added. A further 16 million euros will be made available to help housing associations exercise their right of first refusal.
Carola Bluhm, head of the Left Party parliamentary group, emphasized that 2,500 apartments have now been secured with the help of the right of first refusal, which many were critical of a year ago. For the designation and supervision of milieu protection areas, which are a necessary prerequisite for snatching houses away from investors, the districts receive half a position per area. There are currently 51 protected neighborhoods, and more are planned.
1.2 billion euros for investments, 1 billion euros for debt repayment.
The city’s green spaces and parks are also to benefit, with 25 million euros for tree planting or quiet leaf blowers, for example. Safety is to be strengthened, especially in road traffic, which is one of the main Green concerns. A funding program is being set up to promote the introduction of turn assistants in cars. The winter emergency service will be stepped up to clear bike paths.
Investments will be made not only directly, but also strategically. The largest item of more than 300 million euros will be used to drive forward the digitization of the city. Subsidies for equity capital will strengthen state-owned companies, such as Howoge and Berliner Bader-Betriebe. There is also money for Charite and Vivantes.
Outsourced companies, where employees are paid less, are to be brought back to the parent companies. In the Senate administrations, 21 new positions will be created, and the police will receive 5 positions for the fight against organized crime.
The budget is to be passed by the House of Representatives on December 13.