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(LEAD) Rival parties in talks for breakthrough over gov't 2019 budget bill

Politics 14:50 December 06, 2018

(ATTN: ADDS more details throughout)

SEOUL, Dec. 6 (Yonhap) -- Rival parties held a last-minute negotiation Thursday to make a breakthrough over the government's 2019 budget bill, with electoral reform emerging as a sticking point in moving their talks forward.

The floor leaders of the ruling Democratic Party (DP) and two opposition parties sparred over details about the government's proposed 470.5 trillion-won (US$426.6 billion) fiscal spending, four days after the legal deadline for its passage expired.

They failed to reach an agreement a day earlier over the government's record budget proposal, which is aimed at propping up the slowing economy and spurring job growth.

Major bones of contention in the original budget bill were an expected 4 trillion-won shortfall in tax revenue and the budget set aside for inter-Korean projects and job creation.

On Wednesday, the parties said they made a draft agreement that reportedly cuts the size of the fiscal spending amount to some 1 percent of the government's proposed budget.

They are also likely to allow the government to issue state bonds to fill the shortfall in tax revenue. But as soon as the government secures additional tax income, it should make efforts to repay debt.

But the electoral reform has emerged as a major sticking point in their budget negotiations as minor parties seek to link the issue to the passage of the budget proposal.

Minor parties are strongly calling for the ruling Democratic Party (DP) and the main opposition Liberty Korea Party to accept their demand for a new proportional representation system.

Smaller parties are pushing for the introduction of the mixed-member proportional (MMP) representation system in which parliamentary seats are tied to the percentage of voters' support for different parties.

"There will be no linkage between the budget bill and a revision of the election law," Hong Young-pyo, the floor leader of the DP, said at a meeting with party officials.

"It is regrettable that the passage of the budget proposal gets protracted due to three minor parties' demand," he added.

The floor leaders agreed to cancel a plenary session slated for Thursday with an aim at putting a revised budget bill and some 200 proposals altogether up for vote Friday.

At 2 p.m., the National Assembly was supposed to open the session to handle hundreds of bills, including a proposal aimed at strengthening the punishment for drunk driving.

A plenary meeting slated for Friday will be the last one before the 100-day parliamentary regular session ends Sunday.

The DP called in a plenary session Monday to consider the vote on the government's budget bill in its original form, but opposition parties boycotted the session.

Finance Minister Kim Dong-yeon (R) and the floor leaders of the ruling and opposition parties head to a room in the National Assembly to discuss the government's 2019 budget bill on Dec. 5, 2018. (Yonhap)

sooyeon@yna.co.kr
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