Bicam deliberations on 2020 budget start
Members of a joint congressional body on Friday kicked off their deliberations on the proposed P4.1-trillion national expenditure for 2020 as they tried to avoid a repeat of the four-month delay in the passage of this year’s budget.
Sen. Juan Edgardo Angara, who heads the Senate panel as chair of the finance committee, was authorized by his fellow senators to hold a one-on-one meeting with his House counterpart, Davao City Rep. Isidro Ungab, to iron out differences in the separate budget versions of the two chambers of Congress.
“It’s impossible to have a 100-percent agreement. Historically, that has never happened. So we really have to talk,” Angara told reporters after the bicameral committee meeting held at Manila Polo Club in Makati City.
“There will always be a consultation [with my colleagues]. What will happen is if there are amendments that [bicameral members] don’t agree with, we’ll have to discuss it with the senator or the congressman who made the amendment,” he said.
Gov’t workers to get more
Senate President Pro Tempore Ralph Recto said lowly government workers were the biggest winners in the Senate version of the spending program as they made sure that their salary increase would be bigger compared with those in the higher echelon of the bureaucracy.
He said at least P32 billion was allotted for the additional salaries of all state personnel, which would be covered by a law that Congress was set to pass next year.
The Senate leader played down concerns that the increase in the monthly pay of lower-ranked nurses and teachers would result in salary distortion among government employees.
“We made sure that there’s fiscal space [for the salary adjustments],” Recto said.
Barring any hiccup, Sen. Panfilo Lacson said the bicameral committee would be able to submit to President Duterte the ratified version of the national budget before the Congress’ holiday break on Dec. 18.
Lacson expressed confidence that Ungab, House appropriation committee chair, would be able to present the amendments of his fellow congressmen during the bicameral deliberations and not after their joint discussions.
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