With elections looming, Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon has ordered a major budget cut at all ministries. Kahlon is seeking to free up NIS 22 billion in order to fund pensions for police and other security agencies. The cuts will see each ministry give up 1.35 percent of their budget. Affected ministries include Health, Education and Welfare. After an angry meeting, the government on Sunday voted to approve the cuts, which will last through 2035.
The decision to increase the pension payments came after a years-long effort by organizations representing the retired officers that included numerous lawsuits. The lawsuits were resolved by the National Labor Court a year and a half ago, which ruled in favor of the retirees, who had demanded that their pension payments be raised to the same level as those of retired IDF officers. The pension increase will be paid retroactively to 2006.
Kahlon informed the ministers of the cuts Motzoei Shabbos, and immediately objections were raised. Deputy Health Minister Rabbi Yaakov Litzman spoke with Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu Motzoei Shabbos, saying that he was “firmly opposed” to the cuts. “A budget cut at this time, at the beginning of the winter when there is likely to be much greater pressure on the health system, will be a fatal blow to the system. This is one of the biggest budget cuts in recent years, and will have a major impact on the care we can provide Israelis.”
The Public Security Ministry, which is responsible for police on active duty, will also see its budget cut – with the reduction for that ministry totaling NIS 160 million in the current state budget, as opposed to NIS 100 million for the other ministries. Ironically, ministry officials said, the cut could lead to the dismissal of hundreds of police officers, and the decision was a “scandal.” They added that Kahlon had apparently decided to punish the ministry for being the one that the police who will be getting the pension payments were employed by.
In a statement, the organization representing the retired officers said that the payments “are a significant correction to the injustice that has been going on for years against retired police officers and prison officials, and a step forward in equalizing the salaries and benefits of officers with those of IDF officers.”