Silvio Berlusconi
Amid crisis in the Eurozone, italy's credit rating was slashed last week - Spain suffered a similar fate on Friday. Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi said the decision was expected. Reuters

Italy's parliament voted in favor of Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi's emergency austerity budget on Wednesday afternoon. The vote was the final needed approval of the plan, which passed both the senate and the lower house.

The 54 billion euro ($74 billion) budget plan uses a mixture of spending cuts and tax hikes to balance the country's budget by the year 2013. The bill, which was passed by 14 votes, is a key stopper to assure that Italy doesn't slide into the European debt crisis. Italy hopes that the austerity measures will stave off Moody's from downgrading the country's credit rating.

Italy is currently $2.7 trillion in debt, and critics of the package fear that there isn't enough long-term reform to truly get the country back on track.

The package was also crucial for Berlusconi's government, which has suffered a series of setbacks recently. To help push the bill through, the government turned it into a confidence vote in the lower house, meaning that either it passed or the government had to resign.

Italy is the Eurozone's third largest economy, and a debt disaster such as those that happened in Greece and Ireland, would cause a serious financial risk on the continent.

The country's public debt currently totals 120 percent of the its gross domestic product.

It's the only way to convince markets and other partner countries of the seriousness of the initiatives taken on, International Monetary Fund Managing Director Christine Lagarde told the La Stampa newspaper, referring to the austerity plan.