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30 april 2014

‘825.000 euro for grocery shopping’

King Willem-Alexander's allowance has to be decreased to 230.000 euro.” This way, the King’s salary also meets the "Balkenendenorm". Member of Parliament Jan Vos (PvdA) dropped a political bombshell and soon found himself left all alone in the political arena. The ‘Balkenendenorm’ was introduced a few years ago, and had become the standard for the maximum salary any civil servant is allowed to receive. The Balkenendenorm is named after former Prime Minister Jan Peter Balkenende, and the idea is that nobody should be paid more than the person who runs the country. JOEP DERKSEN reports.
In this country, everybody has to pay taxes except King Willem-Alexander, who is exempt from this duty. The PvdA, VVD and D66 are preparing a proposal to change this, so that this inequality to all hardworking citizens will belong to the past. But Vos wants to go one step further. He states that everybody working in the public sector can earn a maximum salary of 230,000 euro. But the King receives 850,000 euro, excluding all kinds of benefits and compensation amounts. Vos informed the NOS on 3 April: “The King gets 850,000 euro every year. Tax free. That is a lot of money for grocery shopping, because he also gets funds for (maintaining) his palaces and airplanes. Everybody in the Netherlands has to cut down on their finances, and the King should be no exception to this. He can be paid for what he does, but I don’t understand why he should earn so much more than the Prime Minister.”
Queen Máxima also receives more money from the treasury than the Prime Minister does. Vos pleads to limit her salary to the Balkenendenorm as well. He informed the media that political parties PvdA, D66 and VVD agree that the King should start paying taxes. ”I think that we should go one step further and limit the King’s salary to the Balkenendenorm”. Vos does not hate the royal family. ”I am a big fan of the monarchy. But we all need to make sacrifices and the King should also do his part in this. He currently receives a fantastic reimbursement of expenses, and those 825,000 euro only need to pay for grocery shopping.”
What he says seems to make perfect sense, but Vos does not seem to get a lot of support. Even politicians from his own party fail to back him up. PvdA Minister Ronald Plasterk (Interior and Kingdom Relations) is perfectly fine with the current way the King receives his payment slips. On 4 April, Plasterk said to the Telegraaf: “I am under the impression that this has been an individual action by Vos. The law [that determines the salary of the King, JD] has been approved by Parliament in 2009. If the Parliament wants to do it differently, we shall wait and see. But I am not under the impression that this will be the case. We won’t have a debate about this subject every other year.” Vos nevertheless says that he wants to propose lowering the Kings salary in September, when the Second Chamber has to decide about this topic. He has a long way to go, because he still needs to convince even his own party members, like PvdA spokesperson for the Royal House Jeroen Recourt. “You don’t let the queen wear a dress of H&M when she is going on a state visit,” he told NOS on 3 April. King Willem Alexander stated on television that he understands people saying that the Royal House should also make cutbacks. However, he stressed that this would mean that part of his royal household would be laid off. Apparently, buying a cheaper dress for his wife does not seem to be an option.
After having given several interviews about his proposal, it seems that Vos has now been told to keep his mouth shut. When The Holland Times requested an interview, his secretary Ira van Gogh informed us that he is currently not available to answer any questions, due to his very busy agenda. Yet, even for Vos, there still is hope. His colleague in Parliament, Ronald van Raak (SP: Socialist Party) supports Vos. Not all the way, though. According to Van Raak, the king could easily do his duty with a lower salary. He says in Trouw on 3 April: ‘But I do believe that the Balkenendenorm is too low. Maintaining a royal household does cost money. But his salary can be decreased to a large extent. The SP proposes this every year. Unfortunately, we never receive any support from the PvdA on this subject.’ The other parties fiercely oppose any lowering of the king’s salary, although a spokesperson of D66 states: ‘If Vos manages to convince the PvdA members of parliament and that party does indeed hand in a proposal, then we are willing to consider it.’