The legislature yesterday passed an amendment which would allow Taipei County to be upgraded to the status of a special municipality.
The amendment introduces a clause to Article 4 of the Local Government Act (
Of the nation's 18 counties, only Taipei County, which has a population of 3.76 million, currently meets the requirement.
PHOTO: GEORGE TSORNG, TAIPEI TIMES
Special municipalities are at the top of three levels of local self-governing organizations in the country, followed by counties and provincial municipalities, and townships and county municipalities.
A special municipality, like Taipei City and Kaohsiung City, is under the direct jurisdiction of the Executive Yuan and runs a separate election mechanism for the leadership of the municipality.
Taipei County Commissioner Chou Hsi-wei (
"The amendment means that we will be able to increase [the county's] public service personnel from 4,000 to about 16,000, and it would earn twice as much in annual tax revenue, going from NT$80 billion (US$2.4 billion) to NT$160 billion," said Chou, a member of the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT).
"We have finally obtained the fair treatment to which we are entitled," he said, referring to long-standing complaints from Taipei County officials that the annual tax revenue allotted to the county is less than half the amount appropriated to Taipei City, despite the county having 1.15 million more residents than Taipei City.
"Taipei County makes the second-highest tax contribution to the state coffers, but the annual tax expenditure per person in Taipei County ranks lowest in the country," Chou said.
Lawmakers across party lines from Taipei County constituencies hailed the amendment, although some of their counterparts with constituencies elsewhere said that the amendment unfairly favored Taipei County residents.
"It's a big breakthrough for the development of Taipei County. Residents have been calling for the promotion since 1989," KMT Legislator Wu Yu-sheng (吳育昇) said.
The amendment was passed after a motion jointly proposed by the KMT, People First Party, Taiwan Solidarity Union and Non-Partisan Solidarity Union.
The Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) legislative caucus changed its stance on the amendment at the last minute, allowing it to clear the legislature.
DPP legislative caucus whip Wang Sing-nan (王幸男) said the party had initially opposed the amendment because it had been "hastily" compiled, "without comprehensive supplementary measures."
"It's more than likely that residents in the greater Tainan area would demand a merger between Tainan City and Tainan County. Not to mention Taoyuan County, which is just 90,000 people short of qualifying for special municipality status," he said.
Wang said that with the year-end legislative election approaching, the DPP had no choice but to support the amendment, as DPP lawmakers in Taipei County could not afford to be seen as representing the only party holding back the change.
"It's a political issue," he said.
KMT Legislator Lu Shiow-yen (盧秀燕), who represents a Taichung City constituency, asked the government to keep the promise it made in 2000 to Taichung residents that Taichung City and Taichung County would be merged and become the country's third special municipality.
The legislature yesterday also introduced a clause to Article 7 of the act stipulating that counties and cities with a population of more than 1.25 million are entitled to apply for special municipality status. This means that, in addition to Taipei County, Taichung City, Changhua County and Taoyuan County could also apply for special municipality status.
The Cabinet welcomed the proposal.
Cabinet Spokeswoman Chen Mei-ling (陳美伶) said that it was Premier Su Tseng-chang's (蘇貞昌) goal to push for the merger of Taichung City with Taichung County and make it another municipality under the direct jurisdiction of the central government.
Additional reporting by Jimmy Chuang and CNA
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