Budget fight puts child care at risk in Gyeonggi

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Budget fight puts child care at risk in Gyeonggi

Several welfare programs in Gyeonggi will end this month because Democratic Party members of the provincial council have refused to consider a supplementary budget proposal to fund them.

A special council session that ran from Sept. 2 through last Friday was to have considered a bill to supply 15.9 trillion won ($14.7 billion) to the programs to keep them running.

The DP council members, who hold a majority in the legislature, refused to take up the funding bill. The 72 Democrats in the 131-seat body want to add more funding to the budget of the provincial education office.

The education office will not be receiving any additional funds in the supplementary budget, and a bloc of Democrats large enough to control the pace of legislation have decided to bring the matter to the boiling point by cutting off all added spending.

Some households with children under 6 years of age will be hit hard because the province’s child care funding faces a shutdown.

That program offers up to 200,000 won per month to families whose small children do not attend a day care center. The money to help those parents pay for child care will run out by the end of September in five cities in the province, including Suwon, and will eventually dry up province-wide.

Other programs for disabled, troubled and extremely poor children will probably run out of money during this month as well. In all, the supplementary budget would have made available about 355 billion won for programs involving 972,000 people.

But there is no sign, at least yet, of a weakening of resolve among the Democrats, a center-left party which is now in the position of hurting its natural constituency.

“A proper supplementary budget bill should be proposed,” said Kim Sang-hoe, a DP spokesman at the council.

The debate at the council turned physical, with some Democrats and Saenuri Party members exchanging blows over the stalemate. And the provincial governor, Kim Moon-soo, is on a business trip until Sept. 25, so no arm-twisting or other avenue to a breakthrough is likely at least until then.

“We have really hard time finding tax revenue that can be spent on welfare programs because of a stagnant real estate market and other economic factors,” said Kim Dong-geun, an official at the council’s administrative office. “If the funding keeps on being delayed, it will only harm the people who need these welfare programs,” Kim said.

BY CHOI MO-RAN [ejpark@joongang.co.kr]

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