Ms. Chinchilla moving ahead to tax corporations

The government is pushing ahead with its plan to slap a $300 tax on every corporation, purportedly to pay for increased security.

Marco Vargas, the minister of the Presidencia, said Monday that the new tax would be one of the measures that the executive branch nominates for action in the legislature during so-called extraordinary sessions.

According to the Costa Rican Constitution: The Legislative Assembly shall meet each year on the first day of May, even if it has not been convoked, and its regular-session term shall last six months, divided into two periods: from the first day of May to the thirty-first day of July and from the first day of September to the 30th day of November.

So today is the last day of regular sessions. But lawmakers are not going home. The executive branch has the power to convene the legislature at other times for these extraordinary sessions. And that is the time the executive branch controls the agenda.

President Laura Chinchilla has been promoting the extra corporate tax since she took office. It is not clear exactly what proposal will go to the legislature. Some measures already have been introduced. According to the general plan, each legal corporation will have to pay $300 over and above the normal income tax payments. The measure has been linked with a special tax on casinos, but that was not mentioned Monday.

Lawmakers would on these proposals until the next regular session begins May 1. And the executive branch can add or subtract proposals at any time.

Ms. Chinchilla has not said what she would do with the tax money when it is collected. Citizen security was a big part of her presidential campaign, but since she took office there has been no dramatic changes. She asked the U.N. Development Programme to survey citizens, but there has been no report on what surveyors determined. Other
surveys show citizens nearly as concerned about security as they are about the economy.

Some mid-level police officers have said they were told to reduce the amount of information on crimes given to the public, and the Ministerio de Gobernación, Policía y Seguridad Pública seems to only report crimes when a suspect is caught.

Vargas said that there would be other measures on the legislative agenda.

They include a general law on electricity, which encourages private power generation. This bill has run into trouble.

There also is a bill to finance programs for tourism in protected forest areas. This is part of the continuing effort by the central government to promote tourism in places other than tropical beaches. The initiative would seek to involve municipalities and rural communities.

Another bill that lawmakers will see is the free trade agreement with China as well as a law that is supposed to protect citizens from excessive requirements and administrative filings. The new aspect in that latter bill is a proposal for prison for public employees who unjustly block a governmental procedure.

There also are several bills relating to bonds to finance homes.

Finally the executive branch is proposing a general law of the police which seeks to define the roles of the various police agencies that now work in the country.

Lawmakers also will be able to continue to work on the existing traffic law, most of which went into effect March 1. The fines are generally agreed to be out of line with reality, but lawmakers have been unable to pass any changes.

There also is the in-vitro fertilization law that is facing an uphill battle in the legislature. This will be part of the submission by the executive branch.

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