Amid protests by the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) caucus, Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) lawmakers early yesterday pushed through the budget for the first stage of the Forward-looking Infrastructure Development Program, cutting NT$1.85 billion (US$61.25 million) from it.
The DPP caucus, which had passed all of its motions via votes, filed an extempore motion at 1:04am requesting that more than 10,000 motions tendered by the KMT be skipped and be recorded in a gazette instead.
Despite strong objections from KMT lawmakers, the motion was passed after securing a majority vote from the DPP caucus.
Photo: Wang Yi-sung, Taipei Times
Legislative Speaker Su Jia-chyuan (蘇嘉全) announced that the motions were to proceed to the third reading, prompting KMT lawmakers to hurl reams of budget requests at him, while DPP lawmakers and staffers gathered around Su to protect him.
Su pounded his gavel minutes later at 1:12am.
The DPP caucus’ motions slashed the NT$108.9 billion budget, which is to expire at the end of next year by 1.7 percent to NT$107.75 billion.
Another 10 percent, or NT$10.89 billion, was frozen.
The Ministry of Transportation and Communications, which asked for NT$23.3 billion, bore the brunt of the cuts — NT$583 million — due in large part to the “rail technology research and authentication center” it proposed, which was to receive NT$253 million.
The proposed center was criticized by lawmakers across party lines for having an “ambiguous purpose,” with DPP legislators Yeh Yi-chin (葉宜津) and Cheng Pao-ching (鄭寶清) recommending that its funding be denied.
The NT$30.6 billion earmarked for the Ministry of Economic Affairs was cut by NT$456 million, while NT$17 billion to be given to the Ministry of the Interior was reduced by NT$253 million.
The KMT caucus said that it refused to acknowledge the budget’s legitimacy.
“The entire process — from the way it proceeded to committee review, the appointment of the chairperson for that review, to the way the budget was reviewed during the plenary session — was rife with illegalities,” KMT caucus secretary-general Lin Wei-chou (林為洲) said.
Lin said that the DPP was engaging in “pork barrel” spending through the program and the potential low self-liquidity of rail lines it wants built.
The KMT would continue criticizing the program and that he would invite academics and professionals to public hearings to highlight flaws in the program and illegitimacy of the review, Lin said.
He would formulate bills to reform the legislative procedure to rid it of loopholes, Lin said, adding that the DPP caucus was “very creative” in tabling a motion barring the KMT’s motions from being read.
KMT caucus vice secretary-general Wang Hui-mei (王惠美) said that the budget’s approval revealed the “darkest side of Taiwanese democracy.”
Wang compared President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) to an empress and DPP lawmakers to ministers trying to please her with a “present” — the infrastructure program — on her birthday yesterday.
“As if it were not shameful enough borrowing money from the public, you [Tsai] took the money via dubious means,” Wang said.
“Does it not prick your conscience?” she said, referring to the budget allocations amid government debt.
Lee Yen-hsiu (李彥秀), another KMT vice secretary-general, said the DPP initially proposed NT$890 billion for the infrastructure program, with rail construction — the most controversial portion of it — accounting for more than NT$600 billion.
She said she would ask councilors on KMT-governed cities and counties to scrutinize spending linked to the infrastructure program, she said, adding that rail construction projects would cost more than NT$1 trillion, including complementary spending by local governments.
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