The Knesset .
(photo credit: REUTERS)
MKs will receive a monthly pay raise of several hundred shekels on January 1, instead of about NIS 1,000, after the Knesset House Committee authorized the increase on Tuesday.
Lawmakers’ salaries, which are approved by a public committee and then authorized by the House Committee, are linked to the average salary in the economy. An unusually large jump was approved for 2016, because the average salary rose an extra 0.8 percent as a result of an increase in the minimum wage in early 2015.
MK salaries vary according to years served in the legislature and the positions they hold and, therefore, not everyone was expecting a raise of the same amount – just the same percentage of their pay in 2015.
Tuesday’s vote was the second on the matter, because of objections to the original increase by opposition legislators led by MKs Yael German (Yesh Atid) and Shelly Yacimovich (Zionist Union).
The raise will now be determined by the change in the average salary minus 1%, a change meant to cancel the increase in the minimum wage’s effect on the lawmakers’ pay.
Haggai Sitton, a representative of the Public Committee on MK Salaries, recommended that the pay be linked to the consumer-price index, like that of other public officials, but House Committee chairman David Bitan (Likud) rejected the suggestion, saying that when there is a plan to unite all the salaries in the public sector under the same system, he would be willing to discuss determining MKs’ pay in the same way.
“Freezing or changing the linkage would mean lowering our salary. The autopilot exists to prevent us from dealing with the matter. Just like MKs’ salaries don’t have to be linked to the minimum wage, they shouldn’t be linked to the price of tomatoes,” Bitan stated.
Yacimovich, however, said the pay raise shames the MKs and that “linkage to the average salary gives an unusual benefit [to MKs] and caused an ostentatious jump.”
“Averages lie,” she added. “The real number is the median, and we need to create a system that is more connected to real life. The influence of minimum wage is 0.8%, so its influence is not very important. Let’s not be clever and accept the public committee’s suggestion, and freeze our salaries.”
If the current linkage continues, German posited that MKs’ salaries will rise whenever there are more unemployed people.
“There is no logic in our deciding our own salaries. This is an a priori conflict of interest built into the way our salaries are determined,” she said.
MK Elazar Stern (Yesh Atid) took issue with the idea of only accepting the Public Committee’s recommendations approved by the MKs, but MK Oren Hazan (Likud) argued that opposition lawmakers are trying to “delegitimize the Knesset.”
“There are MKs here who enjoy a pension at the public’s expense,” he said, pointing to German, a former mayor of Herzliya, and Stern, a former IDF major-general. “Some of them aren’t even getting a salary, just an extra payment from the Knesset, so the raise doesn’t affect them.
MK Haim Jelin (Yesh Atid), referring to Hazan’s former job in Borgas, Bulgaria, told Hazan that he could get his raise paid in casino chips. Hazan responded by submitting a complaint to the Ethics Committee.
Only four MKs voted against Bitan’s proposal – Yacimovich, Yona, German and Merav Michaeli (Zionist Union) – while 11 supported raising their own salaries – Bitan, Hazan, Nava Boker, Nurit Koren, David Amsalem and Miki Zohar of Likud, Tali Ploskov (Kulanu), Yinon Magal (Bayit Yehudi), Yoav Ben-Tzur (Shas) and Yisrael Eichler (UTJ).
Several MKs said they would donate their raises to salary, including all of Yesh Atid; opposition leader Isaac Herzog (Zionist Union) who said he would contribute it to organizations that help victims of domestic violence; MK Itzik Shmuly (Zionist Union) who said he would donate to organizations that help animals; and others.