Italy's lower House of Parliament to Hold Confidence Vote on 2007 Budget

Italy's lower house of parliament holds a vote of confidence tied to the 2007 budget Thursday, in a final push to pass the contested measures before the end of the year.

Italian governments often resort to confidence votes in hopes of speeding passage of legislation and closing ranks among coalition lawmakers. If a government loses a vote of confidence, it must resign.

The vote in the Chamber of Deputies, where Premier Romano Prodi's center-left coalition enjoys a comfortable majority, was called by the government. It was expected Thursday afternoon.

The budget has already gone through confidence votes in both houses of parliament. It is returning to the lower chamber for what is expected to be final approval after changes in the Senate.

The budget is aimed at spurring growth and bringing the Italian deficit to within 3 percent of gross domestic product by next year to meet EU commitments. It calls for ??35 million (US$46 million) in revenue-raising measures.

Critics in Italy and abroad contend it relies too much on higher taxes and not enough on even more drastic spending cuts. Prodi has defended the measure as necessary to restart the Italian economy.