Sala IV approves fast-track method to pass new taxes

The Chinchilla administration’s efforts to pass news taxes overcame a big obstacle Tuesday when the Sala IV constitutional court by a 4-3 vote, determined that the legislative method being used to speed up passage was not flawed.

Luis Fishman, a lawmaker who opposes the basket of new taxes, raised the issue in a constitutional appeal. Although some court magistrates said that consideration and voting might take as long as a year, the decision came much quicker.

The vote does not clear the way completely for the value-added tax and other aspects of the plan advanced by President Laura Chinchilla. The court has been asked by more than a dozen lawmakers to assess the constitutionality of the entire package.

The decision announced Tuesday was just on the legislative use of the so-called via rapida in which discussion is restricted to prevent a Costa Rican form
of filibuster. The method was created by the previous legislature to speed passage of the free trade treaty with the United States and other Central American nations.

Carlos Ricardo Benavides, the minister of the Presidencia, quickly was quoted in a Casa Presidencial statement saying that the via rapida is an inoculation against the hijacking that a minority tried to do.

The court decision comes as ministers and some lawmakers are being singled out for not paying their property taxes. The daily La Nación even listed Ottón Solís of Partido Acción Ciudadana Tuesday as someone who had evaded property taxes.

He is a strong supporter of the Chinchilla tax plan and a likely presidential candidate.

Ms. Chinchilla defended the handful of ministers who were listed in a news story Monday and said that their regrettable carelessness should not be used as a smoke screen to stall the new taxes.

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