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2008年5月14日 (水)


(May. 14, 2008) The Yomiuri Shimbun

PM must move to free up use of road-related taxes

「道路」再可決 一般財源化へ法案を詰めよ(5月14日付・読売社説)

A protracted row between the ruling and opposition camps over the use of gasoline tax and other road-related tax revenues predominantly for highway-related projects has dominated the current Diet session.

But now the row has cooled, Prime Minister Yasuo Fukuda must make every effort to steadily free up the use of of road-related tax revenues for general expenditure.



On Tuesday, a revote in the House of Representatives forced a bill through the Diet that requires gasoline tax revenues to be exclusively used for highway construction and other road-related projects for 10 years from this fiscal year. A revote requires the backing of more than two-thirds of the lower house to pass a bill.



However, prior to the vote, the Cabinet endorsed a policy that stipulates that from fiscal 2009 road-related tax revenues no longer be earmarked for specific purposes.


So the law requiring gasoline tax revenues to be used for road-related projects for another decade flatly contradicts the government's policy of putting an end of specifying the use of such revenue from 2009.

To resolve this discrepancy, the government and the ruling camp need at an early date to enact a bill that makes sure road-related tax revenues are channeled into the general account budget from fiscal 2009.



How should road tax be spent?


So how should the government proceed on this issue?


If road-related tax revenues are put to general use, the issue of how much of it should be allocated to local road maintenance and how much should be spent on such items as welfare, education and environmental measures must be addressed.


Although it is stated as "provisional," the provisional taxes on gasoline and other road-related taxes have long been sustained. It is appropriate, therefore, to take this opportunity to integrate the taxes into the relevant legislation.

The government's midterm road-maintenance plan, which was initially to spend 59 trillion yen over the next 10 years from fiscal 2008, will be shortened to five years. It is vital to eliminate unnecessary road-related spending by conducting a daring review of the plan.



Liberal Democratic Party members with vested interests in road construction likely will stiffen their resistance to any changes to road-tax spending, and put increased pressure on those attempting to reformulate the midterm plan. The prime minister must face down these efforts and head off any resistance.

Regarding tax system reform slated for this autumn, Fukuda said he will reach a conclusion on issues including provisional tax rates. But problems must still be addressed, such as how to secure enough revenue to meet the increasing state burden of the basic pension plan. In addition, Fukuda cannot avoid the issue of a consumption tax rate increase.



vested interests=既得権)(face down=立ち向かう)(head off=進路を転じる、排除する)


Time for strong leadership


We hope Fukuda will show strong leadership during the tax system reform discussions.



The Democratic Party of Japan has offered no significant resistance following the reintroduction of the road-related taxes, when compared with its strident opposition during the lower house's plenary session when a set of tax code bills, including one to reinstate provisionally high rates of gasoline and other road-related taxes, was rammed through using a revote.

The House of Councillors moved at the last minute to vote down the bill Monday.

A constitutional provision stipulates that if the upper house fails to act within 60 days of receiving a bill passed by the lower house, the lower house can consider this a rejection of the bill by the upper house.

The opposition camp might have decided that the upper house would appear superfluous if it did not vote on the bill--in the same manner as it would on a set of tax code bills--and, in doing so, invoke the constitutional provision.



strident=執拗な)(reinstate=元通りにする)(ram=激しくぶつかる)(revote=再投票)(vote down the bill=法案を否決する)


With the end of the current Diet session looming, the DPJ apparently decided to put pressure on the government not by prolonging deliberations, but through thorough discussions. This is the correct way to engage in parliamentary politics.



The ruling and opposition parties have set up a joint consultation body for the discussion of issues including the integration of road-related tax revenues into the general account budget. The DPJ should participate in such discussions and set out its vision on this issue.


(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, May 14, 2008)

20085140151  読売新聞)


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