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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Legislators Predict Budget Bill Will Flop

Russian legislators predicted failure Monday for a government bill that would slash 1997 budget spending by 20 percent and in the process target some protected items that many lawmakers consider sacrosanct.

"It will be impossible to get the budget cuts passed in their current form," said Oleg Leonov, an aide to the Duma's budget committee. Primary opposition will come from the Communist and Agrarian factions, which will resist proposals to slash funding to industry and agriculture, he said.

The bill, formally submitted to the Duma last Wednesday, proposes to cut 108 trillion rubles ($18.8 billion) from the 530 trillion rubles in spending called for in this year's budget, which was passed in February after months of bitter debate.

The 1997 budget requires the government to submit a plan to sequester, or cut, spending if revenue levels fall below 90 percent of quarterly budgetary targets. First-quarter revenues are currently at about 60 percent of targets.

Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin is expected to go before the Duma on May 21 to defend the proposal amid increasingly vocal opposition to the cuts. Chernomyrdin met with President Boris Yeltsin on Monday to discuss ways to rally support in the Duma for the reduced spending plan, Russian news agencies reported.

Mikhail Zadornov, chairman of the Duma's budget committee, was quoted by Interfax as saying he expected left-wing deputies to propose closing the revenue gap by printing money -- a tactic that flies in the face of the government's tight monetary policy responsible for lowering rampant inflation to 22 percent last year.

Zadornov, a member of the reformist Yabloko faction, said the government had proposed cutting 30 percent in spending for the coal industry, military purchases and defense research programs. The proposals also slashed 55 percent of budget funding for agriculture, some investment projects and culture and health programs, he said.

Leonov said Duma deputies were likely to pose heated opposition to deep cuts to the development budget, which was designed to provide an extra 82 trillion rubles to help struggling Russian industrial enterprises. The Duma had made the development budget a condition for passage of the 1997 budget and included it under a list of so-called protected items that would not be subject to sequestration.

The government also has put on the chopping block other protected items, such as education and science programs. But wages and other social spending would not be touched, officials said.

Pavel Bunich, a member of the government's Our Home is Russia faction and chairman of the Duma's property committee, predicted the Duma would only sign off on half the proposed cuts, or about 50 trillion rubles, Interfax reported.