NPAD reps back to subcommittee on budget review

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NPAD reps back to subcommittee on budget review

Lawmakers from the ruling and opposition parties went back to work on a key subcommittee for budget deliberations Thursday evening as concerns grew that the National Assembly will fail once again this year to pass the budget bill before a statutory deadline.

The budget subcommittee of the Special Committee on Budget and Accounts of the National Assembly was “normalized” Thursday evening, said Representative Kang Chang-il of the New Politics Alliance for Democracy, after two days of paralysis. According to Kang, the subcommittee members demanded that they return to work and the floor leaders of the ruling Saenuri and the main opposition New Politics Alliance for Democracy gave tacit approvals.

Earlier in the day, rival political parties had been at loggerheads over the budget required for free day care for young children, leaving parliamentary proceedings paralyzed for a second day.

The NPAD abruptly boycotted all proceedings at the National Assembly a day earlier, citing failure to agree with the ruling Saenuri on the so-called Nuri day care program, an educational welfare project that aims to improve the overall development of children aged 3 to 5.

The main opposition insisted that the central government provide 523.3 billion won ($472 million) - the net increase in the Nuri program for the next year - from the public purse.

Ruling party deputy floor leader Kim Jae-won told reporters he had never heard the 523.3 billion won figure before.

He said the Nuri program should be sourced from local bonds and local education office tax money.

The two parties earlier in the day agreed to enter into negotiation over revising a bill on local taxes, which deals with raising cigarette taxes, but the failed lunch meeting blew away that plan.

The idea of discussing the cigarette tax hike at the home affairs committee of the National Assembly was a step forward since the opposition has earlier refused any such talks on the issue.

It maintains the price hike is meant to bloat local tax income and the committee is supposed to only discuss central government taxes.

After the chance of the budget bill missing its Dec. 2 deadline was heightened, Saenuri leader Kim Moo-sung urged the National Assembly to get back to business.

“We should keep in mind that [lawmakers] doing their best to deal with the budget bill is the first order of the people,” he said in a meeting with senior members of the party. “It is high time that we focus solely on the livelihoods of the people and the economy.”

The party’s floor leader Lee Wan-koo also made clear that the party is determined to make the legal deadline of Dec. 2 for the passage of the budget bill and that is not an object of “negotiation or compromise.”

Amid a deteriorating situation, Assembly Speaker Chung Ui-hwa on Wednesday designated 14 auxiliary budget bills for the next year in a desperate effort to meet the deadline for the passage of the budget.

Those auxiliary bills included one revising local taxes, which will include the disputed cigarette tax increase. The floor leaders have yet to discuss in detail the size of the hike.

The two parties have major differences on collecting more tax money from cigarettes.

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