Rachel Azaria and Oren Hazan spar at a finance committee meeting, January 15, 2018..
(photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)
The Knesset authorized a pay increase for ministers in the Knesset Finance Committee on Monday, after lawmakers’ salaries came close to surpassing those of cabinet members.
The committee decided that ministers will get a nearly NIS 5,000 raise, bringing them to the same salary as the opposition leader – NIS 44,223 per month. Deputy Ministers will get a pay increase of about NIS 3,000, bringing them up to par with MKs, who will make a monthly salary of NIS 39,149 in 2018. The prime minister will earn the same as the Knesset speaker, NIS 49,554. Starting in 2019, their pay will be linked to the average salary in the market, like that of lawmakers.
“We need a clear government hierarchy that will be expressed in salary as well,” Finance Committee chairman Moshe Gafni (UTJ) said. “It cannot be that ministers, with all the responsibility they have on their shoulders... make less than MKs.”
The distortion in wage hierarchy is a result of MKs’ and ministers’ pay being linked to different indexes. Salaries of lawmakers and judges rose along with the average salary in the market, while salaries of ministers, deputy ministers and the prime minister were tied to the Consumer Price Index, which barely changed in recent years.
Gafni said he does not want to be a minister – therefore, there is no conflict of interest in his proposal.
On Sunday, Intelligence and Transportation Minister Yisrael Katz sent Gafni a letter, saying that he does not want a raise.
“I ask that a rule be made that will allow me to exempt myself and give up on the planned salary raise, just like MKs have the option,” Katz wrote. “At this time, when there are population groups, like the disabled, fighting for additions [to their welfare benefits] to allow them to live with dignity, I prefer that the money go to those important ends.”
Lawmakers brought up similar arguments in the Finance Committee.
Meretz MK Ilan Gilon pointed out that the government still has not raised disability benefits as promised, saying: “These are people who have no other relief. Wait with this decision [to raise salaries] because of the way it looks!”
MK Bezalel Smotrich of Bayit Yehudi called Gilon a demagogue, saying: “There is no connection between the matters. We need to discuss each issue and do what is right.”
“Ministers’ salaries are low. That is true subjectively and objectively,” Smotrich argued. “The Justice Minister gets less than all of the senior civil servants in her ministry.”
According to MK Miki Rosenthal (Zionist Union), it’s a conflict of interest for lawmakers to determine ministers’ salaries.
“I agree that a member of the cabinet should earn more than an MK. But instead of canceling the linkage, which benefits MKs, and stopping the raise in their salaries, the ministers are being rewarded… and this is all at the public’s expense,” Rosenthal lamented.
Yesh Atid lawmaker Yael German called for an impartial public committee to decide how much MKs and ministers should make, and for MKs to have nothing to do with the decision.
“Instead of fixing one injustice with another, let’s make a decision to freeze MKs’ salaries – then there will not be gaps that need to be closed later,” she suggested.
The Finance Committee does not have the authority to determine lawmakers’ pay; the Knesset House Committee does.
Likud MK Oren Hazan called the attendees hypocritical. Pointing to a law allowing MKs to give up on their annual raise, Hazan asked the Knesset accountant how many asked to do so this year; the answer was zero.
“Stop the theatrics! This is not Habima [National Theater],” Hazan said. “At the end of the month, all of you accept the money. All the bleeding hearts here should give up on their raises.”
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