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Italy's parliament gives final approval to government's 2023 budget

ROME (Reuters) - The Italian government on Thursday comfortably won a vote of confidence in the Senate over its expansionary 2023 budget, obtaining parliament's final approval of the package a few days before the end-year deadline.

Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni's first budget drives up next year's deficit to 4.5% of gross domestic product from 3.4% forecast in September, allocating more than 21 billion euros ($22.3 billion) in tax breaks and bonuses to help firms and households cope with the energy crisis.

Among numerous other measures, the bill also lowers the retirement age, offers fiscal incentives to encourage hiring on open ended contracts and includes 12 tax amnesties allowing people and firms to catch up with missed payments through reduced penalties.

The government won the confidence vote by 109 to 76. This was followed by the formality of a further vote in which the Senate definitively signed off on the package.

Economy Minister Giancarlo Giorgetti called the budget's approval a "mission accomplished", saying in a statement that the package had won the confidence of the markets, European institutions and finally of parliament.

Italian governments often use confidence votes to truncate debate over amendments and push through legislation. If such a vote is lost the government must resign but Meloni, with her ample parliamentary majority, ran no risk of this.

A confidence vote was also used to force the budget through the Chamber of Deputies last week.

Opposition parties have accused the right-wing ruling coalition of giving parliament insufficient time to review the bill, which was presented by Meloni in November about a month after she took office.

The government has rebutted that it had no alternative because Italy's national election held in September had drastically curtailed the period normally used to draw up and debate the package.

(Reporting by Gavin Jones; Editing by Alison Williams)