Following a heated debate, the Knesset Labor, Welfare and Health Committee failed on Wednesday to vote on a proposed bill that would increase allotments for the disabled.
Labor and Social Services Minister Haim Katz (Likud) attended the discussion, along with Histadrut labor federation chairman Avi Nissenkorn, to present legislation that would cement increases in disability allotments.
His proposed bill sought to link the allotments to the average wage in the economy over the course of four payments stretching through 2021. Additionally, the bill called to minimize the “disregard,” ignoring a person’s income in order to enable receipt of a pension.
“There is a division in the government,” said Katz. “The Finance Ministry is used to agreeing to one thing and doing another. It was said that funds were transferred to my ministry for increased disability allotments, but nothing was transferred.
If there is no linkage to the average wage in the economy, then I will not be here.”
Katz’s legislation was drawn up based upon an agreement signed last year in September in which the government approved a NIS 4.2 billion increase in disability benefits over the next four years.
Earlier this month, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon (Kulanu) and Katz announced the allocation of NIS 2b. to increase disability allotments beginning this year, reflecting the first two payments.
However in the Knesset discussion, Shai Babad, the director-general of the Finance Ministry, emphasized that the bill would not legislate the inclusion of the third and fourth payments, which would have to be requested as part of the 2020-2021 budget at a future date.
Babad alluded to the “numerator” – a clause which states that the government cannot commit to the allocation of funds years in advance without a clear budgetary source.
“This is because we don’t know what the budget will look like in these years,” explained Babad. “If you want to decide on something else, you will have to return to the government and ask for it.”
The discussion got heated as Nissenkorn and Katz accused Babad and the Finance Ministry of “cheating” and reneging on their promises.
Babad shot back that Katz had voted on the budget last week and knew that this was the case.
MK Ilan Gilon (Meretz), who has been actively involved in campaigning on behalf of the disabled, said: “The Israeli government is a liar. Because of ego wars they brought forth half the work, without linkage [to the average wage] and with a reduced ‘disregard.’ This is total fraud. Everything needs to be written in law because I do not believe you.”
At the end of the discussion, committee head MK Eli Alalouf (Kulanu) gave assurances that the allotments would be linked to the average wage and the full sum of the funds would be allocated.
“The committee and MKs are not a rubber stamp of anyone, we have the authority to change and fix legislation presented before us,” he said.
He called for a second discussion on the issue set for next week.
Following the discussion, the Finance Ministry released a statement and said it wanted to clarify that “the agreement to raise disability allotments to the amount of NIS 4.2b. will be fully met.”