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May 27, 2017

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Legislature split on lawmakers' allowance debate

The China Post--Budgets pertaining to the Legislative Yuan that are passed after being reviewed by the legislative body are legal, Kuomintang (KMT) caucus whip Wu Yu-sheng (吳育昇) said yesterday; however, Wu added, the question of whether certain expenses are reasonable is open for discussion.

Members of the opposition recently challenged the administration over the justification for annual year-end bonuses allotted for retired public sector workers, arguing that such bonuses do not have a legal basis.

In response, KMT Legislator Tsai Cheng-yuan (蔡正元) proposed the elimination of nine allowances afforded to lawmakers — totaling approximately NT$1.72 million — by arguing that the allowances in question also do not possess a "legal basis."

The KMT caucus respects Tsai's proposal, but according to Judicial Yuan Interpretation No. 391 (大法官釋字第391號) and other related administrative regulations, as long as a budgetary bill is passed by the legislative body, it is regarded as "massnahmegesetz" (措施性法律, law of measures); therefore, current allowances afforded to legislators are legal, Wu said.

Although the allowances are legal, there is still room for discussion, Wu added.

Allowances for stationery, office rent and telephone calls, for example, are needed for legislators to fulfill their duties. Transport allowances for legislators who must travel between the capital and other areas of the country are also necessary, Wu explained.

"It is not necessary to eliminate all the allowances," Wu said. "However, (the suitability of each allowance) can of course be discussed."

If all the allowances were to be eliminated, legislators would have a hard time trying to carry out their duties with only their salaries to depend on, Wu added.

The opposition does not object to the idea of an overall review of legislators' benefits, but this is a comprehensive matter, Democratic Progressive Party whip Tsai Chi-chang (蔡其昌) said, adding that benefits pertaining to the president, ministers and heads of the five yuans should all be included in the review.

People First Party (親民黨) caucus whip Lee Tung-hao (李桐豪), however, described KMT lawmaker Tsai Cheng-yuan's proposal to eliminate legislators' allowances as "a meaningless political ploy." Discussions about the welfare of all societal sectors should be based on the principle of fairness, he added.

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