Fri, Jan 16, 2009 - Page 1 News List

Legislature passes budget in late session

By Flora Wang  /  STAFF REPORTER

After a five-hour marathon vote on 109 motions, legislators passed the central government’s fiscal budget request for this year late last night during the provisional plenary session, cutting it by NT$20.3 billion (US$608 million).

Legislators approved an expenditure request totaling NT$1.8 trillion after trimming NT$20.3 billion and a revenue request totaling NT$1.65 trillion after cutting NT$53.1 billion.

The 84 lawmakers present during the session geared up to deal with the motions, which were originally expected to take 10 hours.

After the fiscal budget request cleared the legislative floor, Premier Liu Chao-shiuan (劉兆玄) visited the legislature to express his gratitude to lawmakers. The legislature went into winter recess after the extra session. Its spring session will begin on Feb. 20.

The provisional session was held yesterday afternoon after the legislature failed to approve the budget proposal by Tuesday — the final day of the fall legislative session.

The Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) caucus insisted on Tuesday that legislators vote on every one of the 159 motions on the budget proposal. Legislators only managed to finish 50 of them after a four-hour marathon vote on Tuesday night, leaving 109 motions for yesterday.

The legislature’s Finance Committee previously passed the preliminary review of the request, but cut the annual revenue request by NT$124 million and cut the expenditure request by NT$3.96 billion. DPP legislators described the scale of the cut as dissatisfying. The DPP and the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) had submitted tit-for-tat motions related to the budget.

During the vote yesterday, the pan-blue-dominated legislature rejected most of the 109 motions, the majority proposed by the DPP.

Lawmakers approved a motion by the KMT that cross-strait negotiations should be conducted under the preconditions of “reciprocity and dignity” and that “government officials can exchange name cards bearing their official titles when meeting Chinese officials on unofficial occasions.”

Among other DPP-proposed motions rejected by the legislature included one that demanded that President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九), Vice President Vincent Siew (蕭萬長) and ministerial officials donate their year-end bonus to civic groups.

Meanwhile, KMT caucus whip Lin Yi-shih (林益世) yesterday lashed out at DPP caucus whip William Lai (賴清德) over his refusal to endorse a proposal to include the Public Television Service’s (PTS) budget request on yesterday’s agenda.

The legislature had previously resolved to freeze half of the PTS’ budget request intended for the second half of last year — an estimated NT$450 million — as a result of a KMT proposal. The KMT caucus has since been criticized by civil activists and the DPP as attempting to interfere in PTS’ operations.

Lin said Lai should take the blame for the PTS’ budget request being excluded yesterday. In response, Lai said he would sign it if the KMT caucus stopped its attempts to control public media and removed its resolution attached to the proposal that states all budgets for programming must be approved by the Government Information Office (GIO).

GIO Minister Su Jun-pin (蘇俊賓) said yesterday the GIO had filed a request with the Directorate General of Budget, Accounting and Statistics to reserve the money before it finalized the treasury accounts for last year and would seek to unfreeze the budget after the legislature reconvenes next month.

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