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Thu, Dec 06, 2001 - Page 2 News List

Lawmakers agree to take up budget on return to work

By Crystal Hsu  /  STAFF REPORTER

Lawmakers back from the campaign trail returned to their jobs for the first time yesterday, unanimously agreeing to get to work on the nation's budget.

Between Dec. 10 and Dec. 26, the legislature's 12 standing committees plan to meet on Monday, Wednesday and Thursday to discuss spending plans that fall within their domain.

Lawmakers took a recess for the entire month of November so they could campaign to keep their posts. Yesterday was the first full assembly of the legislature since the break began.

"The legislature cannot afford any further delay, as outgoing members including myself are due to vacate their office in mid-January," KMT lawmaker Liu Kuang-hua (劉光華) said.

Starting Jan. 3, a full meeting of the legislature is expected to debate next year's fiscal budget. If all goes well, the package should be approved by Jan. 11.

Pressed for time, the legislature will likely be forced to extend its current session, which was set to conclude at the end of this year.

A motion to lengthen the session will be formally raised later this month, according to legislative clerks.

Spending for next year is projected to reach NT$1.6 trillion, down NT$37.8 billion, or 2.3 percent, from this year.

The government is forecasting NT$1.34 trillion in revenue, leaving a shortfall of NT$258.6 billion. The government plans to issue bonds to close the gap.

Opposition caucuses had earlier threatened to send back the Cabinet's proposed budget because it failed to take into account damage caused by typhoons Toraji and Nari.

The Cabinet submitted an explanatory note on Oct. 29 in the hope of speeding up review of the budget.

Though still unhappy, opposition parties yesterday agreed to quit their boycott.

"The time constraint has left us little room to continue protesting," said New Party legislative leader Levi Ying (營志宏), who wasn't re-elected Saturday. Ying added that he and his colleagues would not hesitate to oppose what they consider unnecessary spending.

Still, there are hundreds of bills, including those necessary to put into effect the recommendations of the Economic Development Advisory Conference, awaiting review.

Caucus leaders plan to hold cross-party talks this morning to come up with an agenda for the remainder of the session.

The DPP's legislative whip, Tsai Huang-liang (蔡煌瑯), said he has urged party members to attend legislative meetings. Before the campaign break, only a handful of lawmakers bothered showing up to legislative sessions.

But Liu doubted that attendance would improve, noting that many of his colleagues are still fatigued by the campaign.

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