Sun, Jan 16, 2000 - Page 8 News List

New law more form than content

By Liu Wen-Shih

With strong support from lawmakers, the Legislative Yuan has passed the regulations governing expenditure payments to local elected representatives and overhead subsidies to village and borough chiefs (地方民代費用支給及村里長專務補助費補助條例). The new regulations are supposed to meet public expectations in standard-izing the wages and benefits of government employees. However, proposed in haste during the runup to the presidential election, the regulations obviously contain many political considerations, so their appropriateness and legitimacy have come into question.

First of all, the so-called "standards" in the regulations are in fact itemized ceilings based on the standards of Taipei City, which are much coveted by representatives in counties and former provincial municipalities. The rules provide no concrete, objective basis as to the actual content of the items. They are instead left to the representatives themselves to decide, with no operational standards for implementation.

On the one hand, the regulations stipulate a NT$45,000 ceiling on overhead subsidies for village and borough chiefs; and on the other, it says local governments should raise the necessary funds themselves. If local governments had sufficient financial resources, they would long ago have followed Taipei City's lead in establishing the NT$45,000 standard. Why should they wait for a law to this effect to be made? In fact, the regulations are unrealistic and feed on illusions.

That the county and township authorities were seriously short of independent financial resources was the only reason why an extremely unfair "one country, two systems" phenomenon exists at the local government level. Now, by generously raising the subsidy to NT$45,000, the Executive Yuan has obviously used a law to increase the financial burdens on local governments. Therefore, the central government should also have increased funding to support this increase. But the draft bill prohibits the "application to higher authorities for subsidies."

This not only goes against the legal obligations of the Executive Yuan, but may also violate the Law Governing the Allocation of Government Revenues and Expenditures (財政收支劃分法). Article 38 Paragraph 1 of the newly amended law stipulates that legislative bodies should put together or designate financial resources in advance before enacting laws that increase financial obligations. The Executive Yuan's Directorate General of Budget, Accounting and Statistics (主計處) interpreted the legal implications as follows: "This provision is aimed at realizing the consensus on economic development reached at the National Development Conference. Based on government principles concerning financial stability, this provision should be strictly followed." Now, the legality of the regulations is in doubt after the Legislature gave no specification about financial resources.

Since elected local representatives hold non-salaried positions, they require subsidies to ensure that they can perform their duties properly. This is also the purpose of Articles 52 and 61 of the Local Autonomy Law (地方制度法). However, to protect the rights of taxpayers, laws should of course be enacted in accordance with the spirit of the rule of law. Standards should be clear and precise; criteria should be objective; rights and responsibilities should be balanced; public opinion especially should be respected -- all these while we seek a reasonable guarantee for public representation.

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