Barak nixes reservists' perk package

Finance Ministry opposes some proposals from package, including tax cuts, tuition assistance.

reservist 224.88 (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
reservist 224.88
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
Defense Minister Ehud Barak pulled a proposed benefits package for active reservists off the table during Sunday's cabinet meeting following a dispute with the Finance Ministry, which is opposed to some of the benefits. He demanded that the package be discussed as a whole and not as separate offers. Sunday's meeting was the first time in two years that the issue of benefits for reservists was raised at a cabinet meeting. Ahead of the session, reservist advocates expressed concern that the package would not be approved. "The intentions are good, but implementing them is problematic," said reservist Aleh Miknovsky. "We've been hearing about proposed benefits for years, but when they're on the table, [the government] starts looking at every penny, and in the end doesn't approve anything." The package includes a significant income tax discount for reservists, as well as discounts on municipal taxes and the annual television tax. In addition, reservists would receive tuition assistance and preference for government jobs. "This time, the package is really comprehensive, but it makes demands on all the ministries," Miknovsky said. "When it comes to their pockets, there's nothing behind the big headlines." The money to ease reservists' conditions would be a minor defense expenditure, he said. "If the security establishment were really important, 1 percent of the defense budget could solve the problems," Miknovsky said. "The Defense Ministry has to take responsibility [for finding funds], rather than passing the issue on to other ministries."