In a move critics say opens the door to more election-related corruption, Taiwan's two main political parties teamed up yesterday to pass a bill that will increase salaries for village chiefs and town representatives by as much as three times their current levels.
The vote, which New Party legislators vehemently opposed, is also considered by critics to be a move aimed at placating local factions -- normally responsible for mobilizing political support at the grassroots level -- in the run-up to the presidential election in March.
The new regulations will affect city and county councilors, as well as township and grassroots-level representatives, who number more than 11,000 in total.
PHOTO: HAKU HUANG, LIBERTY TIMES
The KMT and DPP rely on local grassroots officials -- who oversee services such as trash collection and road construction -- ?to solicit votes during elections.
Chiang Min-hsiu (
"It's against the law, doesn't make sense, and is unconstitutional," he said. "The wardens and neighborhood chiefs are part-time jobs and are not within the government system, but now with the passage of the law, they legally become government employees."
Local elected representatives hold what are designated as non-paid positions, but they are granted various forms of compensation, including set monthly payments and research fees.
The new guidelines will increase remuneration for township representatives from NT$17,000 per month to NT$49,000.
Chiang said he is worried about the abuse of taxpayers' money.
"The law provides a legal ground for the government to take taxpayers' money to support campaign boosters," he said.
New Party legislators voiced strong opposition to the new regulations and, after the third reading was passed by the legislature, made a proposal to postpone its implementation until the next session.
However, KMT and DPP legislators swiftly shot down the proposal.
New Party lawmakers later condemned the new guidelines as a concerted vote-buying move by the KMT and the DPP.
But Lu Chin-tsai (
Due to government neglect, Lu said, local representatives in KMT-controlled areas often received lower subsidies than those in DPP-controlled areas.
The guidelines passed yesterday also standardize pay scales for councils at the county and former provincial municipality levels, setting them at around NT$2.4 million annually per councilor. The current range varies from NT$1.9 million to NT$2.8 million per councilor.
In contrast, the new regulations cut the annual subsidy budget for the Taipei City Council by NT$800,000 per councilor. Kaohsiung City Councilors also got their pay cut by NT$940,000 on average.
In addition to standardizing payment schedules, the regulations also raised the total annual budget for such subsidies from NT$4.4 billion to NT$7 billion.
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