Brazilian senators and House representatives approved this Thursday, December 14, a hike in salary, which will double their earnings and make them some of the best paid politicians in the world, ahead of their colleagues in the United States and the United Kingdom.
With the wage boost (it came to 90.7%) congressmen will make 24,600 reais a month in salary (US$ 11,489) or 70 times the current minimum wage in Brazil. The raise means that ministers of the Supreme Court and members of both Houses will now receive identical compensation.
The new salary, which kicks in this coming February 1st, will be paid not 12 times a year but 15, since Brazilian federal legislators get two extra monthly wages at the start and at the end of the year plus, like every other worker in Brazil, they also receive a 13rd bonus salary just before the holiday season.
Besides the monthly remuneration they will also be entitled to several other compensations, which are paid every month and include air ticket aid (US$ 3,700 to US$ 6,500 a month), phone and post office quota (US$ 1,992), housing aid (US$ 1,400), cabinet allowance (US$ 23,300) and compensating stipend (US$ 7,000), which is used by congressmen to maintain their offices in their home states.
There was no real opposition to the increase in Congress. The only legislator against any hike was presidential candidate and senator Heloísa Helena, who is on her way out.
House representative Chico Alencar, leader of the PSOL, senator Helena’s party, proposed a raise of 17%, which would be the same as the average increase given public employees.
The leader of the ruling PT party, Henrique Fontana asked for a 28.4% readjustment, which according to him would compensate for the last four year’s inflation rate.
Congressional raises in Brazil have a cascade effect throughout the country since states and municipalities have their own wages pegged to the federal salaries. By law, state assemblymen, for example, make as much as 75% of what a congressman makes. And depending on the size of a city, council members will receive from 20% to 75% of a assemblyman salary.
It’s estimated that the wage boost will represent an extra drain of US$ 775 million to the treasury. US$ 676 million will go to city councils, US$ 57 million to state assemblies and US$ 42 million to both houses of Congress.
Aldo Rebelo, the speaker of the House, who belongs to the Communist Party, explained that there won’t be any increase in costs since both houses will be cutting expenditures to compensate for the raise in earnings. Nobody seems to be buying into this rationalization however.
Even before the raise, Brazilian congressmen were already making more than their colleagues in Great Britain. While Her Majesty’s House of Commons members make about US$ 118,000 a year, Brazilian legislators, starting in February will earn a much more impressive yearly income: US$ 172,000. And the American House Representatives, who earn a yearly US$ 165,200, will not be a match for the Brazilians either.