Knesset Committee Approves Budget for Second and Third Readings

Aerial view of the Knesset. (Moshe Shai/FLASH90)

The Joint Committee for the Knesset Budget, chaired by MK Nir Orbach (Yamina), convened on Sunday and voted to approve the Knesset budget. The Knesset budget for 2021 will stand at NIS 822 million and the budget for 2022 will be NIS 928 million. The budget proposal will be brought before the Knesset Plenum for approval as a section of the state budget.

Committee Chairman MK Orbach said: “I’m glad that the budget that is being brought for approval is a balanced and proper budget that reflects the Knesset’s activity. This is an opportunity to say thank you to the Knesset staff, who work hard all year round and enable us to do our work.”

Knesset Director General Gil Segal said: “The Knesset’s latest budget was approved in March 2018. The budget reflects the increase in the Knesset’s activity.” He said that the budget was based on three assumptions: an increase in wage costs in accordance with agreements; an expansion of the Knesset’s tasks, including forming new committees; and the “Knesset 2040″ building plan.

In response to a question from MK Ofir Katz (Likud) as to why ministers who were not MKs received offices in the Knesset, the Knesset director general replied that ministers had always enjoyed the benefit of chambers on the Knesset floor. He said that it was appropriate for a minister to have an office in the Knesset. Director General Segal said that at present, there were five ministers who did not have offices in the Knesset.

Knesset Deputy Accountant Nadav Caspi said that in the budget item for Members of Knesset there was a 16-million shekel increase stemming from an expansion of the Knesset’s activity. Among other things, he said that was due to the fact that the Knesset was paying wages to 111 MKs, versus 90 MKs in 2019. In response to a question by MK Katz, Caspi replied that the cost of a MK’s wage, including an office, advisers and other costs, stood at NIS 1.7 million per year (employer payroll costs and MK benefits), and that an MK’s gross monthly wage amounted to about NIS 45,000.

Caspi noted that the Knesset was planning to set up a digital marketing department to publicize the Knesset’s activity on social media. The wages of the Knesset Guard workers also increased as a result of wage agreements linking their pay to that of police officers.

MK Yariv Levin (Likud) said: “It’s not customary for the opposition to oppose the Knesset budget, and that is what I will recommend to my friends. However, it is customary to consult with the opposition factions, and that was not done this time.”

MK Rabbi Yinon Azoulay (Shas) asked why the Knesset was not meeting its employment targets for the chareidi and Arab sectors. He said that affirmative action should be taken by easing the requirements of tenders and tests, and that special tenders should be issued for these sectors.

The Knesset director general replied that the employment percentage for workers from the Arab sector was low, just 1.6% of the Knesset staff. He said: “We’re working to change the situation and encourage them to compete in tenders. In the chareidi sector, our situation is much better. There is a 7% target, and we stand at 5.6%.” Director General Segal said that in the future, tenders would be issued with a preference for particular sectors.

As noted, the Knesset budget was approved unanimously for its second and third readings as a section of the state budget.