Prime Minister Ehud Olmert wants to increase the budgets allocated to former prime ministers Ariel Sharon, Ehud Barak and Yitzhak Shamir. He also wants to give more money to each of the ministers without portfolio: Ruhama Avraham-Balila (Kadima), Rafi Eitan (Pensioners), Haim Ramon (Kadima) and Ami Ayalon (Labor) for their bureaus. In addition, Religious Affairs Minister Yitzhak Cohen (Shas) will be getting more money for his office too.
In order to allocate the additional funds, which will come from the Prime Minister's Office (PMO) budget, yesterday the Finance Ministry asked the Knesset Finance Committee to approve the transfer to the PMO of NIS 1.3 billion from surplus 2007 budgets to the 2008 budget.
The budget allocated to former prime minister Ariel Sharon will grow from NIS 546,000 to NIS 2.1 million. The treasury did not provide details of what the money will be used for, but did say the funds include hiring an employee for Sharon's office.
It seems the money will go, in part, for Sharon's medical expenses in light of a previous Finance Committee decision to pay for such expenses. Also, part of the funds will go for establishing an archive for Sharon's papers. An outside company will be contracted to set up the archive. Also, Sharon is entitled to security guards while in hospital.
Ehud Barak will receive another NIS 545,000 for his office expenses, even though he has served as defense minister for the last year - and is no longer entitled to an office as a former prime minister. However, the sum is meant to cover his security expenses for the period before he became defense minister.
Avraham-Balila's bureau will receive an additional NIS 326,000. She is responsible for the 60th anniversary celebrations, and is the minister in charge of relations between the Knesset and the cabinet. The additional funding will raise her office's budget to NIS 2.66 million.
Rafi Eitan will receive an additional NIS 200,000, for a budget total of NIS 2.78 million.
Deputy prime minister Haim Ramon will receive another NIS 113,000, and his budget will be NIS 1.7 million. Ami Ayalon will see a NIS 115,000 increase - for a total of NIS 2.1 million.
Former prime minister Yitzhak Shamir's office will get another NIS 120,000. His annual budget will be NIS 1.1 million.
The treasury explained yesterday that the funds came from budget surpluses in 2007, which the state had committed to last year but not spent in full - and could therefore be used this year.
Even former prime ministers who are no longer with us have not been forgotten by the treasury's largesse: the Begin Center will receive another NIS 700,00 a year, for a total of NIS 7.6 million; and the Rabin Center will get another NIS 400,000, for a total of NIS 6.7 million.
The Winograd Committee budget also came out of the PMO's budget, and will grow NIS 1.8 million to NIS 9.4 million.
Another NIS 5 million will go for coalition agreements, in addition to a previous NIS 477,000. The treasury did not provide information on which agreements were involved, but it seems likely the money is for religious institutions.
MK Reuven Rivlin (Likud) said he would gather a majority to vote down changes in the state budget which do not relate to welfare or local authorities. Rivlin is also demanding the treasury cancel a NIS 75 million cut in the health basket.
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