Fri, May 02, 2003 - Page 3 News List

Row erupts over SARS-prevention budget proposals

By Fiona Lu  /  STAFF REPORTER

Ruling and opposition lawmakers crossed swords yesterday over how much cash should be siphoned from government coffers into a special fund aimed at battling severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS).

As negotiations over a single SARS-prevention draft bill continued yesterday, DPP legislators voiced their objections to opposition demands that the government lift NT$10 billion from income taxes and existing budgets to go with the NT$40 billion set to be raised through budget proposals.

"A final decision of NT$7 billion raised by the government was reached after further negotiations held by the legislative speaker yesterday afternoon," said Ker Chien-ming (柯建銘), convener of the DPP legislative caucus.

DPP legislative whip Chen Chi-mai (陳其邁) said that it was a misunderstanding on the part of the opposition that has led to the delay in legislative approval.

"Opposition lawmakers thought the government could accumulate NT$10 billion through reserve funds and tax revenues," Chen said.

"The problem is that the reserve fund is for handling expected damages caused by typhoons over the next few months, while tax revenues were already designated for other governmental expenditures," he said.

Noting that the DPP will want to expedite the passage of the special bill, the party's legislators said they will secure the final approval of the NT$3 billion when a further round of negotiations take place today.

After yesterday morning's discussions, Legislative Speaker Wang Jin-pyng (王金平) expressed his confidence in the finalization of a review for the anti-SARS bill at today's assembly when he unveiled a 13-point conclusion.

Wang said that the special draft bill will be formulated in the form of special law while the government will be free to make further budget proposals when the initial NT$40 billion subsidy runs out.

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