The Budget estimates central government revenues and expenditure for the coming year. Expenditure is divided into main titles by administrative sector. These are further divided into classes and items. Revenues, mostly from taxes, are divided in a similar manner.
The draft Budget is considered largely in the same manner as other government proposals, but there are some special features of the way in which deliberations are conducted by the committees and in plenary session.
The plenary session holds a general debate on each main title in the Budget, and every motion for changes is put to a vote. Once Parliament has approved the Budget, it is printed and published in the Statute Book of Finland. The Budget is then ready for implementation.
Each spring Parliament considers spending limits for the coming years on the basis of a government report. Agencies and ministries draft their own budgets within this framework. The Ministry of Finance conducts negotiations with each of the other ministries and in the summer the Government works out final details in its Budget session.
Consideration of the draft Budget begins with a preliminary debate in plenary session, which is one of the most important debates of the year. The Minister of Finance generally takes the floor first and outlines the Budget. At the end of the preliminary debate the draft Budget is referred to the Finance Committee.
After the draft Budget has been submitted to Parliament, MPs have ten days in which to make motions for changes. They may, for instance, propose that an appropriation be increased or reduced or that an entirely new item be added to the Budget.
The Finance Committee is where consideration of the draft Budget takes place. For this purpose it is divided into eight subcommittees, each of which is responsible for a specific administrative sector. The Subcommittee for Tax Affairs considers the revenue side of the Budget as well as tax legislation, while the other subcommittees focus on expenditure.
The subcommittees follow procedures that largely correspond to the way committees normally work. They hear experts up until the middle of November, then hold a final debate and decide on any changes to the government proposal. Such changes are usually of minor significance in money terms.
The subcommittees complete their reports around the beginning of December, and then the Finance Committee approves the Budget item by item. Numerous votes are conducted at this point, but very few changes are made to the reports prepared by the subcommittees. Opposition MPs usually file protests to the Finance Committee's report at this time.
After the committee stage the draft Budget returns to the plenary session, where the Finance Committee's report serves as the basis for discussion. Parliament considers the Budget in a single reading. This includes a thorough debate on each main title together with votes on Members' motions, which must be submitted to the Central Office in writing by a certain date. Considering the Budget in plenary session takes several days and includes hundreds of votes.
Most often the plenary session approves the Finance Committee's report without changes. The Budget is ready for implementation once it has been approved by Parliament and published in the Statute Book of Finland.
The Government also submits one or more supplementary budgets to Parliament each year. These propose changes in the Budget.