In contrast to 2018’s proposal, which targeted significant cuts to taxes before eventually moderating reforms due to lack of agreement with parliamentary allies, this year’s proposed budget focused on other areas including children, the elderly and the environment.
Some reduced taxes were provided for, including a reduction in electricity bills for holiday homes, but extensive cuts were not announced.
The coalition government, led by the liberal Venstre party, must now negotiate the proposal with other parties in order to gain the parliamentary majority required to pass the budget. The Danish People’s Party is the most likely partner in that process.
A general election will be held in Denmark no later than June 2019.
Presenting the budget, Jensen said that the current healthy state of Denmark’s economy provided for increased spending in a number of areas.
“Denmark’s economy is good, there’s enough money and we’re looking after the money. Because we have the economy under control, the government is able to prioritise new initiatives in specific areas,” he said according to Jyllands-Posten’s report.
Proposals presented on Thursday include 250 million kroner to be spent on daycare professionals and other resources to improve conditions during the “first 1,000 days” of the lives of underprivileged children; 220 million kroner for a healthcare reform to be presented later this year; and 180 million kroner towards care of the elderly.
Jensen also pledged 250 million kroner per year until 2022 on combatting climate change, a so-called “green billion”.
That money will be invested in reducing greenhouse gases and increasing sustainable transport, the finance minister said.
But political opponents said that the amount was not enough to ensure the necessary conversion to sustainable energy and reduce climate change.
“The government has allocated just one billion kroner to climate and nature over four years… Far from enough if the environment is to be taken seriously. The rest of Denmark is acting, the government should too,” Alternative party leader Uffe Elbæk wrote on Twitter.
Regeringen har afsat kun én milliard til klima og natur - over fire år. Lugter langt væk af, at man prøver at undgå en tabersag. Men langt fra nok, hvis man vil tage det grønne alvorligt. Resten af Danmark rykker, kom nu ind i kampen, regering #dkpol #ffl19 #dkgreen— Uffe Elbaek (@uffeelbaek) August 30, 2018
The 2019 budget will be primarily financed by using already-available funds, with some funding also being provided by reprioritisation.
“I will ensure that there is enough money and that the money is looked after,” Jensen said.
The minister said he was prepared to negotiate with the anti-immigration Danish People’s Party (DF), which has called for reduced spending on integration services.
“We spend 36 billion kroner per year (on immigration and integration). If we can reduce that by just ten percent over a short period, we will have 3.6 billion kroner per year at our disposal,” DF’s finance spokesperson René Christensen told Ritzau prior to the announcement of the budget.
Those savings could be made by further curbs on family reunification and stricter requirements for social welfare support, DF has previously said.
Asked by journalists at Thursday’s budget presentation, which was streamed live by the Ministry of Finance, to clarify the government’s position over immigration, Jensen said that many Danish businesses were reliant on foreign labour.
The government would, however, prefer to see refugees who have been “given protection” by Denmark return to their countries of origin once conditions in those countries allowed, he added, without giving detail on how such assessments might be made.
“I think it would be excellent to reduce the cost of poor integration,” Jensen said, also noting that employment rates amongst those granted asylum and family reunification in Denmark had increased over the last three years.
Another opposition party, the Red-Green Alliance (Enhedslisten), criticised the budget for not going far enough on welfare.
“The idea that this budget is a gift shop is pure trickery. In fact, the government is not even dedicating sufficient money to cover increasing costs of the higher numbers of children and elderly. Should this become reality, it will mean even more stress for nurses, even less time for care for the elderly and even more children per carer in daycare,” the party’s spokesperson for finance Rune Lund told Jyllands-Posten in a written comment.