Mon, Dec 13, 2004 - Page 3 News List

Legislature to reconvene today; bitter fights ahead

DIFFERENT PRIORITIES The legislature, which now includes 37 lame ducks, will start work on the annual budget, US arms bill and a public infrastructure budget

By Debby Wu  /  STAFF REPORTER

The last session of the fifth legislature resumes today with an ambitious and hotly-contested agenda. Legislators will return to the negotiating table to review and approve the government budget and try to hammer out agreement on controversial bills such as the NT$610.8 billion (US$18.8 billion) arms deal with the US and the NT$500 billion budget for public infrastructure projects over the next five years.

Another major issue to be handled is the amendment of relevant laws governing the National Assembly so that ad-hoc National Assembly representatives can be chosen to ratify the Constitutional amendment for downsizing the legislature.

Last but not least, the ratification of the Control Yuan member nominations by the President is another important battle between the caucuses.

The legislature recessed on November 10 for the legislative election campaign. With Saturday's election over, the session resumes today with mixed feelings, since as many as 37 incumbent lawmakers have lost their seats.

But there is no time left for grand farewell parties for those who failed to win re-election: next year's budget has to be reviewed by the joint committee sessions and perhaps negotiated by the caucus whips.

Before the election, the legislative committees completed reviewing the budget, and cut only NT$0.8 billion out of the total NT$1.6 trillion requested by the government.

The cut was a record low for the DPP administration. The budgets for at least two-thirds of government agencies were not even cut one penny. It was speculated that legislators dared not cut the budget before the election for fear of hurting their campaigns.

But now that the pan-blue camp has retained its majority in the legislature, further budget trimming is expected.

"It is clear that the opposition parties have decided to wait until inter-party negotiations to give the annual budget a further cut," DPP caucus whip Tsai Huang-liang (蔡煌瑯) said.

The Democratic Progressive Party's (DPP) attempt to push through the NT$610.8 billion arms deal with the US will also resume, although the continuing pan-blue majority may mean the DPP will still have a hard time selling its plan.

"We support and hope that the budget can be approved, and we are willing to form a supervision team with the opposition parties to supervise the Ministry of Defense's purchase process," Tsai said.

Tsai said that if the Ministry of Defense did not spend every penny in the end, the extra money would be returned to the national treasury.

Tsai also said the NT$500 billion budget for public infrastructure projects was something regional governments had long hoped for, and that he did not think the opposition parties would antagonize them.

The Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) caucus, on the other hand, is hoping for the passage of bills governing two major government agencies.

"We hope the organic law governing the Central Election Commission, and the law governing a national communications commission will be passed," KMT caucus whip Huang Teh-fu (黃德福) said. Huang said that the two laws should be considered as a part of government restructuring stemming from the Standard Organic Law of Central Government Agencies (中央政府機關組織基準法).

Huang also said that amendments to the Law Governing the National Assembly's Exercise of Power (國民大會職權行使法) and the National Assembly Representatives Election Law (國民大會代表選舉法) should be approved soon so that the National Assembly representatives can be elected in time to ratify legislative downsizing.

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