Cut Spending, Increase Taxes, but Don't Dare Touch My Salary: Israeli Lawmakers Balk at Pay Cuts

Knesset members agree to 1 percent cut in montly income, despite government request to slash by 10 percent.

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They may have no qualms about cutting public spending, increasing taxation and introducing a whole host of other austerity measures, but when it comes to their own salaries, Israeli parliamentarians are far more reticent.

Members of the Knesset's Labor, Welfare and Health Committee voted on Thursday to approve a 1 percent reduction in the salaries of state officials – including the same MKs who sit on the committee – despite a government request to slash 10 percent.

The difference translates into a NIS 382 monthly cut per lawmaker, instead of NIS 3,825 as initially planned.

The government reached the decision to cut salaries last month in the debate on the Economic Arrangements Lawm amidst a budget deficit and public criticism of austerity cuts to social services.

The salaries of all MKs including the prime minister along with the president, the state comptroller, the governor of the Bank of Israel, and the heads of religious councils were targeted in the decision.

The committee decided that the pay cut, due to take effect between July 2013 and December 2014, would also affect judges and other senior officials. Committee chairman, MK Haim Katz (Likud) explained that the cuts in the wages of the president, the PM, ministers and MKs would be debated again after an agreement is reached concerning the cuts in Judges' salaries.

Knesset committees are authorized to change government decisions, and in such cases, the government can withdraw its decision. In the present matter, since the government needs the Labor Committee's cooperation concerning several other matters in the Arrangements Law, the government isn't expected to withdraw the bill despite the significant change.

Two weeks ago the Knesset held a debate concerning the Arrangements Law, including the salary deductions. Several MK's including coalition chairman, Yariv Levin (Likud), objected to the judges not being included in the decision as well. Following the debate, it was decided to include the judges in the wage cuts, thus allowing, temporarily, an increase of the cuts to only 1 percent.

Social Affairs Minister Haim Katz.Credit: Emil Salman

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