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Brazil Congress looks to raise pay for government workers

Brazil's acting President Michel Temer, left, greets the new president of state oil company Petrobras, Pedro Parente, as the new president of the Bank of Brazil, Paulo Rogerio Caffarelli, center, looks on during their inauguration ceremony at Planalto presidential palace in Brasilia, Brazil, Wednesday, June 1, 2016. (AP Photo/Eraldo Peres)
June 02, 2016 - 2:00 PM

RIO DE JANEIRO - Brazil's Congress moved Thursday toward giving big pay raises to government workers just a week after announcing a multibillion-dollar deficit this year. The move also benefits the supreme court justices who are still to make decisions on the divisive fight over the president's impeachment.

The lower house, the Chamber of Deputies, voted to approve raises that range from 16 per cent to 41 per cent. The measure now goes to the Senate, where it's expected to pass.

Raises would go to hundreds of thousands of workers in the legislative, executive and judicial branches, but not to elected officials.

The move came a week after acting President Michel Temer estimated the government's fiscal deficit in 2016 at about $47 billion. In recent weeks, his administration has suggested there will be cuts in spending on health care, education and social programs.

"I am happy to see the Senate and Chamber of Deputies actively working, something that hadn't happened in a long time," Temer said after the vote.

Latin America's most populous nation is facing its worst economic crisis since the 1930s, and its economy is expected to contract about 3 per cent this year after a similarly dismal 2015.

Lawmakers and public workers have often argued that a raise is necessary to help offset inflation, currently around 10 per cent.

Suspended President Dilma Rousseff, who has an impeachment trial pending in the Senate, vetoed a similar bill last year. This time her supporters in Congress said nothing against the raise.

Temer's chief of staff, Eliseu Padilha, said the raise was negotiated by lawmakers while Rousseff was in power.

"Trying to stop this deal now would create a mess," he said. "This raise was already anticipated in this year's budget. "

The raise for government workers comes at a delicate moment for Temer's three-week-old administration, which has already lost two Cabinet ministers because of leaked recordings of their conversations. In the recordings, important allies of the interim president suggest "a pact" and "a deal" with Brazil's highest court in the impeachment process. Justices have denied involvement in political issues.

One of the recordings shows the head of the Senate saying that Chief Justice Ricardo Lewandowski had met with Rousseff to lobby for a pay raise before the president was suspended. Lewandowski will preside over Rousseff's impeachment trial in upcoming weeks.

The pay raise also includes workers of a government watchdog that kicked off the impeachment proceedings by saying Rousseff broke fiscal laws.


This story has been corrected to show that lawmakers and other elected officials are not covered by the pay raise measure.

News from © The Associated Press, 2016
The Associated Press

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