The New Power Party (NPP) caucus yesterday opposed what it said was the government’s plan to distribute surplus tax revenue “indiscriminately” to all citizens, saying that people whose lives were disrupted by the COVID-19 pandemic should be prioritized.
“If the government is indeed using surplus tax revenue to enhance national resilience, it should spend the fund on socio-economically disadvantaged people so that they can share the economic benefits,” NPP Legislator Claire Wang (王婉諭) told a news conference at the Legislative Yuan.
“The money should also be spent on those who were severely affected by the COVID-19 pandemic to help them resume their normal lives,” she said.
Photo: Tu Chien-jung, Taipei Times
Less than 60 percent of the 120,000 social housing units pledged by President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) have been built during her two terms as president, Wang said, providing an example of where she thinks the money could be allocated.
The surplus tax revenue could also be used to fund other projects, such as social safety nets, publicly funded childcare facilities and medication for people with rare diseases, for which government agencies lack funding, she said.
The NPP caucus made the statement as the Legislative Yuan convened an extraordinary session this week to review what is called the draft “special statute of bolstering economic and social resilience and sharing economic achievement with all people in the post-pandemic era.”
The draft was proposed by the Executive Yuan to offer a legal basis for handing out NT$6,000 to all Taiwanese citizens and eligible foreign residents.
The Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) caucus also proposed a “special statute governing the sharing of surplus tax revenue with all people” for the legislature to consider.
Legislative Yuan Speaker You Si-kun (游錫?) yesterday morning presided over a meeting in which Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) and opposition lawmakers negotiated the two proposals.
“We did not propose our version of the bill, because we strongly oppose the DPP and KMT caucuses for trying to secure a second reading for their bills within four days before the Lunar New Year holiday, just so that people can cash the political checks they wrote,” NPP caucus whip Chiu Hsien-chih (邱顯智) said.
“Before deliberating over these special budget bills, we ask that the Legislative Yuan first handle the general central government budget plan as well as bills that await a third reading,” Chiu said.
Article 51 of the Budget Act (預算法) stipulates that a general budget proposal should be approved by the legislature a month before a new fiscal year begins, and should be announced by the president 15 days prior to the start of a new fiscal year, Chiu said.
“The new fiscal year began more than two weeks ago, but the legislature has yet to complete the review of the central government’s general budget proposal, as well as those of government agencies. The two largest parties in the legislature messed up the budget review timeline for their political gains,” he said.
“Even if the bills for the special budget are passed to authorize cash handouts, the government must make the payments without borrowing,” Chiu said. “We also oppose an indiscriminate one-time cash payment. The cash must be given out under certain conditions.”
The Budget Act requires that a special budget must be used to fund “urgent, important and non-regular” projects, NPP Chairwoman Chen Jiau-hua (陳椒華) said.
“However, the Tsai Ing-wen administration has frequently compiled special budget plans, even though not all projects that she proposes to fund meet the criteria for special budgets,” Chen said.
The National Development Council, and the Directorate-General of Budget, Accounting and Statistics should explain if the special budget for cash handouts would require the government to borrow money and why the special budget plan does not fall within the purview of articles 5 to 7 of the Public Debt Act (公共債務法), she added.
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