The cabinet yesterday approved in principle the recommendations of the Sheinin Committee on fighting road accidents, although Finance Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Attorney General Menachem Mazuz slammed the plan to levy a special road-safety fee.
Netanyahu and Justice Minister Tzipi Livni abstained in the vote.
The committee’s main recommendation was to increase annual funding to the National Road Safety Authority from NIS 160 million to NIS 550 million by demanding that all car owners pay a special safety fee. The fee will be 9 percent of the cost of a vehicle’s compulsory insurance.
The cabinet decided to establish an interministerial committee in the near future to apply the recommendations, which the Transport Ministry said yesterday will be implemented on January 1, 2006.
In an apparent reference to the proposed fee, Prime Minister Ariel Sharon said during the meeting that some of the recommendations were extreme, but “the war on road accidents requires extreme measures. There cannot be a fight every year over the budget for the war on accidents.”
When Yossi Haber, the head of budgets in the Finance Ministry, voiced his objections to the tax, Sharon responded: “We know about these statements of yours. Afterward you’ll say the budget has to be cut and there’s no money. This is a special fee and the best way for funding [it].”
Transport Minister Meir Sheetrit supported Sharon, telling Haber to “stop the blathering,” suggesting that the car-licensing fee be reduced in favor of the safety fee. Haber responded by saying that the state had to be managed according to budgetary priorities, and said levying a dedicated fee was a dangerous precedent.
Netanyahu said that while he supported the Sheinin Committee recommendations in principle, there should be no special fee collected to fund them, just as there is no special fee to fund medications or to fight air pollution.
Netanyahu, together with Attorney General Menachem Mazuz, also opposed changing the status of the National Road Safety Authority to an independent entity with full supervisory powers in its realm, which he said would make it redundant vis-a-vis the Transport Ministry. Mazuz also opposed the allocation of conscript soldiers to the war on road accidents.