In a tight 25-26 vote, lawmakers on Monday afternoon voted in a first round of debate against the proposed national budget for next year in a hectic session marked by controversy and heated exchanges.
Then, Legislative Assembly President Henry Mora announced that he had approved the ₡7.9 trillion ($14.5 billion) budget proposal submitted by the administration of President Luis Guillermo Solís in September, and that a second and final round of debate would be held on Thursday.
To justify the move, Mora cited Article 178 of Costa Rica’s Constitution, which he claimed mandated the budget’s approval. He also said that because lawmakers voted against all three plans to cut spending last Thursday, the proposal is the only one remaining and must be approved.
“The theory I stand by is that the budget proposal submitted by the government should be approved,” Mora said before a full Assembly, setting off vocal protests across the room.
Several lawmakers took issue with Mora’s move and requested the floor in protest. The Libertarian Movement Party’s top lawmaker, Otto Guevara, said he would file a complaint with the Constitutional Chamber of the Supreme Court, or Sala IV, accusing Mora of violating the legislative process.
Guevara said legislative procedure provides two options: pass the executive branch’s proposal or approve the same budget that is in force this year. The Christian Democratic Alliance’s (ADC) Mario Redondo and the National Liberation Party’s Rolando González said they would support Guevara’s consultation with the Sala IV.
The discussion dragged on as at least six more lawmakers addressed the full Assembly to either request recesses or to voice complaints and appeals against the Assembly president’s ruling. Nevertheless, Mora ended discussion at about 7 p.m.
Extraordinary budget approved
Following the tense discussion lawmakers took a last recess and returned to vote on the administration’s Second Extraordinary Budget for 2014, which totals ₡21 billion ($39 million).
The bill was approved at about 8 p.m. with 39 votes in favor and Guevara, Natalia Díaz and Redondo voting against.
That approval in a first round of debate followed an agreement by ruling Citizen Action Party legislators to create a commission to investigate alleged political persecution against public employees linked to the National Liberation Party.
The additional expenditure plan provides funds for Christmas bonuses, pensions and operating costs for various government agencies. The first Extraordinary Budget 2014 was approved by the previous legislature back in April at ₡59 billion ($109 million).