The legislature was yesterday once again prevented from reviewing the government's budget for this fiscal year because of the simmering dispute between the pan-blue and pan-green camps over the amendment to the Organic Law of the Central Election Commission (CEC) (
The budget bill has been held hostage by pan-blue lawmakers, who since the second half of last year have insisted that the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT)-introduced CEC amendment be dealt with before deliberation of the budget takes place.
Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) lawmakers have staged fierce protests on the floor on several occasions aimed at blocking a vote on the CEC bill, as its passage would restructure the commission to give the pan-blue camp a majority.
The DPP yesterday offered a trade to the pan-blue camps, which involved allowing the KMT's version of the CEC bill to pass, on condition that the pan-blue camp restored the budget for major arms procurement that had been slashed or frozen during preliminary review.
The KMT looked ready to agree to the offer following an impromptu caucus meeting, but the People First Party (PFP), who remain vehemently opposed to the US weapons procurement, rejected the bargain.
Non-Partisan Solidarity Union lawmakers were also opposed to the deal.
The budget request for the major weapons systems includes NT$3.59 billion (US$ 109 million) to upgrade PAC-2 patriot missile batteries, NT$11.3 billion to purchase new PAC-3 patriot missile batteries, NT$6.13 billion to buy 12 P-3C Orion maritime patrol aircraft, NT$4.5 billion to assess the feasibility of purchasing diesel-powered submarines and NT$16 billion for F-16 C/D Fighters.
The government has struggled to get funds for the first three items and partial funding for the three advanced weapons systems past the legislature since 2004.
During the previous stage of preliminary review, the pan-blue camp slashed the budgets for the purchase of PAC-3 Patriot missile batteries, cut the funds for assessment of the submarines to NT$200 million and froze the funds put aside for the F-16 C/D fighters.
"We can make concessions to the KMT's CEC bill only if it is constitutional, but we wanted the arms procurement budgets either cut or frozen by the KMT and PFP during preliminary review to be reinstated," DPP Legislator Wang Sing-nan (王幸男) said.
KMT Legislator Hsu Shao-ping (徐少萍) said her party had agreed to accept the deal because "we can't keep bickering over [the CEC bill]," adding that the DPP's offer might be an opportunity to end the controversy.
But PFP Legislator Fu Kun-chi (傅崑萁) said his party would never soften its stance on the arms procurement issue and that it should not be tied to the CEC bill.
"We will not cooperate with the KMT on this," PFP Legislator Hwang Yih-jiau (黃義交) said.
Having haggled over the issue the whole day, lawmakers again decided to postpone the meeting until next Thursday, as they did last Thursday.
The delay has caused lawmakers to violate the Budget Act (預算法), which stipulates that requests must be completed in the legislature one month before the fiscal year starts and be promulgated by the president 15 days before that, DPP Legislator Yu Jane-daw (余政道) said.
"It's already the middle of March, approaching the end of the first quarter. It's estimated that GDP will drop by half a percent because of the delay," he said.
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