On November 17, 2021, the Swedish parliament voted to adopt new budget rules as part of a broader amendment containing changes in how the parliament operates. The amendment, which among other things amends the Budget Act (Budgetlagen (SFS 2011:2013), provides that a budget can be extended provisionally if the parliament has not adopted a new budget for a specific budget appropriations area within a week of the new budget year.
Specifically the amendment states:
If the parliament has not decided on budget appropriations for a specific purpose a week before the start of the following budget year, the government may, to the extent necessary, adopt measures in order that the most recent budget shall apply, including any changes decided by the parliament, until the parliament can decide on budget appropriations. (11 kap. 1 § Budgetlagen (2011:203), as amended.)
Under current rules, the budget may be provisionally extended (9 kap. 5 § Regeringsformen [RF](SFS 1974:152) (Instrument of Government) (Swedish Constitution).) However, it is unclear whether the government may take measures to have the budget apply before the new budget year starts. The amendment to the Budget Act therefore specifies that the government may issue regulations and instructions to have the budget extended before the new budget year starts.
The amendment also includes an amendment to the Parliamentary Act (Riksdagsordningen (201:801)) that changes the deadline for when the government must present its budget to the parliament. Under current rules, the government must deliver its budget proposal to the parliament no later than September 15 each year but provides for special provisions during election years. (Tilläggsbestämmelse 9.5.1 Riksdagsordningen.) During election years, a new government must present a budget within three weeks after the opening of the parliament, whereas a sitting government must present its budget within two weeks. In both cases, the deadline to present the budget is no later than November 15. Under the new rules, in years when there is an extraordinary or ordinary election in August or September, a newly elected government will have three weeks from the date it assumes office to present its budget to the parliament, while a sitting government will have three weeks from the date of the parliamentary vote to reelect the government to present its budget. However, in any case, the government is not required to present a budget before September 20. Moreover, in years when November 15 falls on a Friday, Saturday, or Sunday, the budget must be delivered by the preceding Thursday — that is, on November 14, 13, or 12.
Background to the Budget Changes
The amendment came only a few days before the budget vote of November 24, 2021, when the opposition parties’ budget amendment was approved instead of the sitting government’s proposal.
In recent years, the Swedish parliament has been faced with unusual budget scenarios as a result of differing majority-requirement rules for electing a government and adopting a budget. A prime minister need not have support by a majority in the parliament to be elected; rather, he or she is elected unless a majority of the members of the parliament vote against him or her. (6 kap. 3 § RF.) Thus, in theory, a prime minister can be elected with only abstention votes, as long as the votes against do not meet the threshold of 175. For a budget to pass, however, normal majority rules apply, meaning the budget must receive more votes in favor than against. Since 2014, the sitting government has had to govern using the opposition’s budget three times.The new rules take effect on January 1, 2022.