DUP wants funds for next president

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DUP wants funds for next president

In the final weeks ahead of the December presidential election, opposition Democratic United Party lawmakers are pushing for the legislature to allocate extra funds for the next president’s policies in advance, clashing with ruling party members who are opposed to the idea.

With about seven weeks remaining in his term, the Lee Myung-bak administration has submitted a bill for next year’s state budget plan to the legislature, and ruling and opposition party lawmakers haven’t passed it yet. The new president will have to follow the former president’s plan in his or her first year.

Choi Jae-sung, a DUP lawmaker who is a member of the National Assembly’s Special Committee on Budget and Accounts, told the JoongAng Ilbo on Sunday that: “We should allocate about three or four trillion won ($3.6 billion) from the next year’s state budget (totaling about 342 trillion won) for the new president.”

Choi said, “The current budget plan was made by the Lee Myung-bak administration, so it’s right to reflect the new president’s polices in the budget plan whoever the next president is.”

However, ruling party lawmakers resisted. “Giving a handful of money to the new president, without any detailed expense plan, is unconstitutional,” Lee Hahn-koo, Saenuri’s floor leader, told the JoongAng Ilbo. “It means abandoning the legislature’s right to review a state budget plan.”

Kim Hak-yong, a Saenuri lawmaker who also belongs to the legislative committee, said, “We can’t change the entire format of a national budget because of a new president.”

However, the DUP’s Choi responded they’re not just handing over money to the next president. “After the new president is inaugurated, he or she can plan expenses on the extra budget and submit it to the parliament,” Choi said.

It’s not the first time that the parties have fought over a coming year’s budget, particularly when there’s high speculation that an opposition candidate could win the presidential race.

In 2007, the then-opposition conservative Grand National Party argued they had to pass a bill on the national budget plan after the December presidential election, with many opinion polls saying its candidate, Lee Myung-bak, would win the race by a large margin.

So 10 days after the election, on Dec. 28, they passed the budget bill, adding 100 billion won to the initial plan for expanding social infrastructure and developing renewable energy technology.

In the past, even after the bill went through, new presidents have proposed bills to request additional funds during their first year, for their campaign pledges or special businesses. The late liberal president Roh Moo-hyun did so in June and October 2003 and President Lee Myung-bak also did the same in June 2008.

“The matter of inconsistency between a former president’s national budget plan and a new president’s implementing it could be resolved by a new system, just like the U.S. legislature that revises its budget plan through discussions with a new president,” said Seong Tae-yun, an economics professor at Yonsei University.

“Still, in this case, we have to launch a monitoring system to prevent the administration from lavishing too much on the state budget.”

By Jeong Hyo-sik, Son Guk-hui [heejin@joongang.co.kr]

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