The opposition-dominated legislature yesterday voted down the NT$10.9 billion (US$338 million) budget earmarked for Patriot missile batteries and a NT$272.62 million outlay preparing for the purchase of items remaining in the special arms procurement package.
A retirement pension program for civil servants was postponed until the next session. Two-thirds of the Examination Yuan's budget was therefore frozen because of the crucial nature of the proposed reform, as well as the entire budget of the Ministry of Civil Service.
Two-thirds of the Executive Yuan's budget was frozen, with opposition legislators demanding that the government begin building the Suao-Hualien freeway before the budget would be released.
In one example of legislation that was cleared, the construction of the Hushan Reservoir (
Environmental groups had called for the budget to be frozen, saying that it posed both geological and ecological dangers.
The legislature also voted in favor of a People First Party (PFP) proposal that the Presidential Office dissolve its constitutional reform office, human rights commission and four other agencies.
The budget of the Mainland Affairs Council was cut by NT$100 million, and NT$280,000 meant for Government Information Office (GIO) Minister Pasuya Yao's (姚文智) salary was trimmed.
The legislature also slashed NT$40.2 billion from the second financial reform plan and voted in favor of conditionally lifting the ban on US beef imports.
Altogether, the legislature yesterday slashed NT$36.5 billion from the government budget and froze NT$246 billion. The cut is the largest in a decade.
The Executive Yuan will ask the Legislative Yuan to reconsider the government's 2006 budget bill, a senior official said late last night.
Claiming that it would be difficult to operate on a leaner budget, the Executive Yuan announced late last night that it would seek a reconsideration of the budget plan. It would be the first time in history that the executive branch asks the legislature to reexamine a passed government budget.
The Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) caucus condemned the pan-blue camp's "barbaric behavior" and said it was trying to paralyze the government.
"We demand that Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) Chairman Ma Ying-jeou (
Meanwhile, the odds of amendments to the Tobacco Hazards Control Statute (菸害防制法) passing this legislative session are small after firm opposition from the Non-Partisan Solidarity Union (NPSU).
Under the amendments, smoking would be banned in offices and public indoor spaces where there are more than three people present. A number of restrictions would also be placed on smoking outdoors, such as on school grounds.
The Outlying Islands Development Law (離島建設條例) will not be put to a vote today after the NPSU changed its previous stance. The revisions would legalize casinos on islands such as Penghu, Kinmen and Matsu.
Earlier yesterday afternoon, the legislature voted on the 13 National Communications Commission (NCC) nominees, confirming 12 and rejecting one recommended by the DPP. The body will become operational in 10 days.
The Organic Law of the National Communications Commission (國家通訊傳播委員會組織法) stipulates that members must meet within three days to elect from among themselves one chairman and one vice chairman. The premier must then appoint the nominees seven days after the chairman and vice chairman are chosen.
Six of the 13 NCC nominees were recommended by the KMT, four by the DPP and the Executive Yuan, two by the PFP and one by the Taiwan Solidarity Union.
Lai told reporters after the voting that his caucus would recommend two candidates to the review committee soon to fill the vacancy left by Lu Chung-chin (
Lu, a National Tsinghua University professor, withdrew his name two days after he was recommended by the panel.
The KMT and PFP held a joint press conference to hail the "historic moment" of the confirmation and requested that the GIO refrain from interfering with its "independent" successor.
"We'd like to see Yao keep his mouth shut from now on and let the NCC do its job freely and fairly," PFP Legislator Lee Yong-ping (李永萍) said.
While the Executive Yuan has pledged to appeal to the Council of Grand Justices on the legality of the NCC, KMT caucus whip Pan Wei-kang (潘維剛) yesterday described this as "ridiculous" and asked the executive branch to desist.
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