Wed, Oct 31, 2012 - Page 3 News List

Lawmakers ambivalent on budget cuts

LEGAL STANDING:The Taiwan Solidarity Union said that it supported the proposal to reduce the subsidies budget for lawmakers because it was ‘unjust and unfair’

By Shih Hsiu-chuan, Chris Wang and Mo Yan-chih  /  Staff reporters

Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) caucus whip Wu Yu-sheng, left, speaks at a press conference in Taipei yesterday, saying the party reached a consensus over canceling subsidies for legislators’ housing and research expenditures.

Photo: Chang Chia-ming, Taipei Times

A proposal by Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) Legislator Alex Tsai (蔡正元) to slash NT$200 million (US$6.83 million) from the subsidies budget for lawmakers yesterday was given the cold shoulder by most of his party comrades.

Tsai recently proposed that nine subsidy payments of NT$1.7 million per year for each lawmaker be cut, saying they were not enshrined in the law.

At a meeting called by the 64-seat caucus to discuss Tsai’s proposal yesterday, only five lawmakers out of 49 present supported the idea.

KMT Legislator Wang Jin-shih (王進士) opposed slashing the budget, citing as an example the transportation allowance, which Wang said was a necessary subsidy for lawmakers whose constituencies are in remote areas.

Referring to Tsai, Wang said: “There were people who were just claiming the moral high ground” and that “we can’t lump together sun and sundry.”

Tsai offered an apology to his party comrades for putting the proposal forward without prior consultation, but he insisted on “cutting the budget across the board flatly.”

Included in the nine subsidy payments were allowances of NT$320,000 for overseas trips, NT$57,600 for highway tolls, NT$314,880 for fuel expenses, NT$216,000 for housing, NT$420,000 for stationery, stamps and telecommunications fees, NT$240,000 for rented housing in constituencies, NT$42,000 for hosting events, NT$14,000 for health examinations and NT$100,000 for legislative research.

After the discussion, KMT caucus whip Wu Yu-sheng (吳育昇) said the caucus would propose that the NT$216,000 for housing expenses and the NT$100,000 for legislative research be cut, adding it would further study the necessity of the nine subsidies before it finalizes its findings on how to reform the system by the end of today.

Pan-green legislators have not reached a consensus on the proposed subsidy cut; the Taiwan Solidarity Union (TSU) supported the cut, while the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) said it would finalize its position in a caucus meeting tomorrow.

TSU caucus whip Huang Wen-ling (黃文玲) said her party supported the proposal because the subsidies were not backed by law, adding it supported a complete review of all “unjust and unfair” government spending.

Unfair policies which favored specific groups have been a primary reason behind class conflict and ethnic divisions in the past, TSU Legislator Lin Shih-chia (林世嘉) added.

The DPP remained undecided on its position on the proposal, with lawmakers’ opinions divided.

Separately yesterday, President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九), who doubles as KMT chairman, called on the KMT caucus to review the subsidies and give a positive response to the public’s expectation of reforming the subsidy.

Ma said in a closed-door meeting with top party officials that the KMT should take the initiative and respond to calls for lawmakers to reduce the number of subsidies they have received.

“The KMT supports a reform in the subsidies and the party stance will not change,” said KMT spokesman Yin Wei (殷瑋), adding Ma has instructed KMT Secretary-General Tseng Yung-chuan (曾永權) and KMT Policy Committee head Lin Hung-chi (林鴻池) to review the subsidies and present solutions immediately.

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