Article 48(3) of the Basic Law stipulates that Members of the Bundestag are entitled to remuneration which is adequate to ensure their independence. The amount of the remuneration must reflect the importance of the special position held by a Member of the Bundestag and the responsibility and burdens accompanying that office. It must also take account of the status attaching to tenure of a parliamentary seat within the constitutional system. Since its judgment of 5 November 1975 on the remuneration of Members of the Bundestag (reference 2 BvR 193/74), the Federal Constitutional Court has repeatedly invoked this principle. The federal legislature took account of its rulings when it adopted the Abgeordnetengesetz, the Members of the Bundestag Act, in 1977 by basing Members’ remuneration levels on the emoluments payable to holders of offices subject to similar responsibilities and burdens to those borne by Members of Parliament. Members of the Bundestag, who represent constituencies with an electorate numbering 160,000 to 250,000, were considered equivalent to the mayors of towns and local communities with 50,000 to 100,000 inhabitants and to ordinary judges at the supreme federal courts, who, like Members of the Bundestag, exercise their office independently and are subject only to the law.
The annual pay levels of these reference office-holders have not yet been reached. Parity will be established for the first time when Members have received their increments of 4.7% (€330 per month) on 1 January 2008, taking their monthly remuneration to €7,339, and of 4.48% on 1 January 2009, which will increase their monthly remuneration by a further €329 to €7,668. Members of the Bundestag do not receive any special payments such as holiday pay or Christmas bonuses. Their remuneration constitutes taxable income.
In its remuneration judgment of 1975, the Federal Constitutional Court also emphasised that Parliament itself must determine the amount of its financial benefits. It is not permitted to delegate that responsibility to any external body, such as a commission of experts. The Court also ruled that Members’ remuneration must not be pegged to civil servants’ pay. For these reasons the Bundestag decides on the level of its remuneration in a transparent procedure that takes place in the plenary chamber where the public can follow its proceedings. This allows the people to keep a watchful eye on their representatives. The basis for parliamentary decisions on the level of Members’ remuneration is a recommendation made by the President of the Bundestag on the basis of changes in the salaries of the reference office-holders.