Rival parties on Tuesday continued to clash over the government’s 2019 budget proposal, clouding the prospect of its timely passage ahead of this weekend’s deadline.
Dec. 2 is the legal deadline for parliament to pass the government’s record-high 470.5 trillion-won (US$416.6 billion) budget bill for next year.
Despite a shortage of time ahead of the deadline, conservative parties on Monday suspended a budget review amid rival parties’ wrangling over an expected 4 trillion-won shortfall in tax revenues.
The government said that it expects the shortfall due to a series of tax cuts, including a 1.1 trillion-won deficit resulting from a temporary reduction in fuel taxes.
The main opposition Liberty Korea Party claimed that the government should submit a revised smaller budget proposal that takes the revenue shortfall into account.
“The vice finance minister earlier promised to submit the government’s option to fill the shortfall. But all we’ve had is the total amount that parliament has cut,” Rep. Chang Je-won of the LKP told reporters on Monday.
“The government is passing the buck to the National Assembly over the tax revenue shortfall.”
But the ruling Democratic Party strongly denounced the LKP and the minor conservative Bareunmirae Party for suspending the budget review on the excuse of the shortfall.
“The two parties should resume the review. We’ve yielded many things to lead reviews of the budget and bills to be timely handled during the ongoing regular session,” Hong Young-pyo, the DP’s floor leader, said at a meeting with party officials.
The government is pushing for expansionary fiscal spending next year to prop up the slowing economy and buttress President Moon’s peace initiative with North Korea.
The opposition parties took issue with 1.1 trillion won set aside for inter-Korean projects and a record 23.5 trillion won in funds for job creation.
A plenary session to handle the budget bill is slated for Friday, the last working day before the review deadline.
But National Assembly Speaker Moon Hee-sang proposed Monday that the National Assembly hold the session even on Sunday by taking into account the lack of time.
By law, the government’s budget proposal is automatically sent to a plenary session in its original form on Dec. 1 if parliament fails to complete its budget review by Nov. 30.
Since 2014, the National Assembly has passed a legal deadline for the budget review every year except that year. (Yonhap)