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Spain's King Felipe VI cuts salary by $66K a year

King Felipe VI has been trying for months to restore the public's faith in the Spanish monarchy, which was drastically eroded during the near 40-year reign of his predecessor, King Juan Carlos I.

By Doug G. Ware
King Felipe VI is taking a 20 percent pay cut. File Photo by Monika Graff/UPI | <a href="/News_Photos/lp/0e999d1fe5427653bda9f39494b8262d/" target="_blank">License Photo</a>
King Felipe VI is taking a 20 percent pay cut. File Photo by Monika Graff/UPI | License Photo

MADRID, Feb. 11 (UPI) -- Spain's King Felipe VI has been head of state for less than eight months but he has taken action to erase some of the public relations damage that was at least partially inflicted by his patrimonial predecessor.

The pay given to Spain's monarchy leader was first disclosed to the public in 2010 and has been repeatedly publicized on an annual basis since, placing greater pressure on Spanish leaders to be more fiscally conservative.

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Felipe has now made a step in this direction -- diminishing his own salary by nearly 20 percent, or almost $66,000. When he assumed the throne last summer, King Felipe earned an annual salary of $330,000. After the pay cut, the Spanish leader now earns about $265,000.

The downsize in payroll is also intended to boost the monarchy's approval rating among Spaniards, Russian news service Sputnik News reported Wednesday.

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King Felipe VI assumed the Spanish throne last June, taking over for his father, King Juan Carlos I, who was the subject of much criticism during a near 40-year reign. Three years ago, Carlos sparked public outrage when the public learned he had taken a luxury safari in Botswana, during which he hunted elephants. The cost of the safari was estimated at nearly $60,000 -- which, at the time, was about twice the public's yearly salary.

King Felipe VI will earn 234,204 euros this year -- which translates to $265,293 USD, Spanish News Today reported. Ironically, this reduction in pay also directly affects King Carlos -- as under Spanish law, he receives a pension worth 80 percent of the new amount: $212,000.

Although the king's income was pared down for 2015, the overall palace budget held steady at 7.8 million euros ($8.8 million) -- leading some citizens to be skeptical as to how much difference the king's pay cut will ultimately make.

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King Felipe VI, 47, has made it abundantly clear that he hopes to give Spaniards reason to restore their confidence and trust in the monarchy, particularly in view of past troubles. News of the 2012 elephant safari only became known to the public because Carlos had injured himself on the trip and needed a special plane to fly him back to Spain, the Economist reported last June.

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Aside from the safari -- which was further criticized because Carlos held an honorary presidential post on the World Wildlife Fund at the time -- he also lost popularity owing to other issues, like supposed infidelities and other hunting trips. He angered many in 2004, for example, when he went on a hunting trip and killed nine bears -- including a pregnant female.

Another major factor that fueled the public's discontent was the fact that public unemployment in Spain has been high. One in four workers were unemployed at the time, and close to 50 percent of Spain's younger workers were without a job. Spain was also near a debt default then, as well, placing doubt firmly in the minds of Spaniards that the throne was making the best use of taxpayers' money.

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But that has not been the limit of recent bad press for the Royal House.

In 2013, Felipe's sister -- Infanta Cristina, Duchess of Palma de Mallorca -- and her husband were the subjects of a substantial criminal investigation that alleged the pair embezzled 6 million euros ($6.7 million) of public money. Both have denied the allegations but last month a judge formally charged Cristina with tax fraud and money laundering. She appeared in court earlier this week, BBC News reported.

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In evaluating the king's new salary, Spanish parliament considered the incomes of several of Felipe's foreign counterparts in nations such as Germany and Italy.

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