Legislators fail to reach a consensus on subsidies issue

Tue, Oct 30, 2012 - Page 3

By Shih Hsiu-chuan

Staff reporter

With the various subsidies allegedly unlawfully claimed by lawmakers following plans to end a year-end benefit for government retirees in the spotlight, lawmakers yesterday met to discuss the matter.

However, a consensus on the issue could not be reached.

The Executive Yuan last week decided to downsize the coverage of the year-end bonus for 432,000 government retirees, from NT$19.2 billion (US$656 million) to NT$1 billion, to quell discontent over the system, the legal basis of which has been disputed by some lawmakers.

Soon after, Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) Legislator Alex Tsai (蔡正元) said lawmakers are entitled to nine bonuses a year, including subsidies 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 stationary, stamps and telecommunications fees, NT$240,000 for rented housing in a legislator’s constituency, NT$42,000 for hosting events and NT$100,000 for legislative research.

The four-term lawmaker then apologized after being informed that the subsidies were not enshrined in the law and called for the budget to be slashed.

His proposal received mixed reactions among lawmakers.

KMT Legislator Apollo Chen (陳學聖) said that Tsai, whom he said “has deep pockets” and “owns businesses,” had ulterior motives and is “angling for praise” by proposing the budget cuts.

Disclosing detailed financial records of his expenses, Chen said he had a shortfall of NT$200,000 last month alone.

The total expenditure for his assistants’ salaries, red or white envelopes given to constituencies and events exceeded NT$900,000, while his monthly salary including subsidies was NT$700,000, he said.

Chen called for spending transparency and holding lawmakers accountable for the use of public funding, rather than cutting the budget as Tsai has proposed.