Lawmakers meet on a Sunday afternoon to pass the budget

Lawmakers met in an unusual session Sunday to consider and finally pass the national budget for the next year. Opposing lawmakers managed to squeeze out a $50 million reduction in the budget.

The action also clears the way for lawmakers to tackle a tax proposal on all the corporations in the country and also the massive proposal for a 14 percent value-added tax.

Lawmakers are expected to vote again on the budget for the second and final time Wednesday, but the final vote Sunday had 31 in favor and 25 opposed, so passage is highly likely.

The budget that the finance ministry presented Sept. 1 is supported by an estimated 55.4 percent in government income and 44.6 percent in external borrowing, according to estimates by the legislative staff. The initial budget was about 5.5 trillion colons, about $10 billion.

In addition to making a cut in the budget, lawmakers also voted to require various ministries to provide reports every
four months to the Comisión Permanente de Asuntos Hacendarios.

Earlier in the day Casa Presdiencial issued a statement that basically said officials there were unhappy with lawmakers tinkering with the budget.

Among the cuts will be 356 million colons, about $712,000, that was supposed to purchase new cars for magistrates in the Corte Suprema de Justicia. Some 750 million colons were cut from the budget of the Tribunal Supremo de Elecciones. That is about $1.5 million.

The president of the Asamblea Legisaltiva, Juan Carlos Mendoza García, said he would keep the session going until midnight so that a budget could be approved. The meeting started after 3 p.m., and a recess came almost immediately so the heads of the various political parties would meet.

Carlos Humberto Góngora Fuentes, a member of the Movimiento Libertario, said that the cuts were not enough in times of austerity. He was among those voting against the budget. Lawmakers finished the session just before 6:30 p.m.

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