2015 budget bill talks extended through Tuesday

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2015 budget bill talks extended through Tuesday

Rival parties on Sunday agreed to extend the deadline for deliberations on next year’s budget until Tuesday, realizing that more time was necessary.

“We apologize to the nation that we still haven’t finalized revisions to the budget bills only a few hours before they are supposed to be automatically submitted to the plenary session,” said Hong Moon-pyo, head of the special committee for budget evaluation, in a press conference at the National Assembly.

“Both the ruling and opposition parties will do their best to come up with revised bills based on mutual agreement.”

Under the National Assembly Advancement Act, the budget review should have been completed by Sunday.

If the two parties can’t manage to come up with a compromise draft, the proposal by the government is automatically sent to the plenary session.

The ruling Saenuri Party wants to avoid the charge that it railroaded the budget through using its majority in the assembly.

The rival parties agreed to work on a revised version and submit it to the plenary session by Tuesday. When the plenary session approves the draft, the government’s version is automatically disposed of.

Rep. Lee Hag-jae, assistant administrator of the ruling party’s budget committee, said over 90 percent of the bill has been agreed upon.

His main opposition party counterpart Lee Choon-suak said the budget could be either increased or decreased between the amounts of 3 trillion won ($2.7 billion) and 4 trillion won.

The government has asked the National Assembly to approve 376 trillion won in spending for next year, a 5.7 percent increase over this year.

The Saenuri also reaffirmed Sunday its stance that the budget bill will be passed by the legally binding deadline of Dec. 2 “no matter what happens.”

Should the two parties fail to reach agreement - the worst-case scenario - the party would submit the revised draft on its own.

If the National Assembly successfully carries through on what the ruling party has vowed, it will be the first time in 12 years that the budget bill meets the legal deadline.

The agreement Sunday came a day after the two parties struck a deal on funding for free day care service, one of the thorniest issues.

The Nuri program, as it’s called, is an educational welfare project that aims to improve the overall development of children ages 3 to 5. The agreement sped up stalled deliberations over the 2015 budget bill.

BY SEO JI-EUN [spring@joongang.co.kr]

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