Initial budget for fiscal 2008.

 The Tottori Prefectural Assembly’s March session has ended and the initial budget of 337,9 billion yen for fiscal 2008 has been adopted. Now I‘m determined to exert myself to carry out the projects in the budget plan faithfully and proceed with the next-generation reform to open up a new era in Tottori Prefecture.

Road-specific tax revenues.

  I feel deeply disappointed about the situation surrounding road-related taxes and the stagnation of the national administration. Both in the Upper House and the Lower House of the Diet, the ruling coalition and the opposition camp adhere to their respective principles of deliberation, and are unable to reach any kind of decision. I cannot but perceive that this is a symptom of the immaturity of our nation's democracy. I call for immediate and thorough negotiation between all political parties in order to come to appropriate solutions in view of the public’s benefit. I am baffled by recent reports that the opposition camp refuses to participate in Diet deliberation until the end of March. I am concerned that refusal to participate even in committee deliberations will be regarded as an abandonment of duty. Their inability to decide on tax-related bills and allocation even insofar as pertains to the highway, cannot be ignored. It looks as if both the governing parties and the opposition are waging a gun battle from the shelter of their respective trenches and making the people and local regions stand in the forefront.   Due to such concerns, I called for an urgent executive meeting to be held at 3:00 pm today. It is urgent that we discuss the crucial issues pertaining to road tax and produce immediate measures for the procedure of road-related projects from here on, as well as how to deal with the budget shortfall without forcing the people of Tottori to bear inconvenience for indecision on tax policies.  Furthermore, as a member of  the Five Young Governors’ Association I suggested that we hold an urgent meeting of the association tomorrow in Tokyo. We are in agreement of the need to send a message to the public.  One specific issue is the automobile acquisition tax. Used cars priced 500,000 yen or less are exempted from this tax until March 31,2008,under an article of the local taxation act.  With the impending expiration of this law, used cars priced at 150,000 yen or higher will be subject to taxation. I feel this increase is a surprise attack.  Although there is talk of repealing this change by a second vote, the injustice of the imposition of this tax only on certain individuals during the interim of one month remains. In order to prevent such confusion, Tottori Prefecture should suspend taxation on transactions within the 150,000 yen to 500,000 yen range rather than force its residents to suffer for the national government’s mismanagement.  If the temporary tax rate remains unsettled, it will be impossible to conduct large projects. Even if Tottori Prefecture’s independent road-related projects are cancelled, there will be a shortfall of 2 billion yen in the budget, likely limiting road-related projects to urgent repairs only.  The initial budget has just been adopted and we have no other choices within the current budget framework. However, in light of anticipation of severe consequences, the budget may require overall revision immediately following the turmoil in the national political arena in June. In any case, I sense an impending crisis of far-reaching influence.

Q. It’s just about time for personnel shuffle. How do you think the staffing of the prefecture will be affected by this problem?

 There will arise a need for a temporary increase in the number of staff engaged in collecting automobile acquisition tax.

Q. Let me ask you about light oil delivery tax, which is imposed directly by prefectural authorities. Starting on April 1, oil distributors will be exempted from the tax, while oil merchants involved in wholesaling will be subject to it.

That will lead to a price competition and create austere conditions in the oil industry.  How will you deal with this issue?

 It should be dealt with on the national level. It’s the same situation with the gasoline tax and I would take it for granted that some nationwide measures will be taken in response to the problem. We just have to wait and see.

Q. Do you have any intention to make some withdrawal from the prefecture’s fund to make up for the shortfall of 2 billion yen in the budget?

 No, I don’t, at least for now. We'll have to decide based on the severity of the turmoil around the Golden Week holidays, between leaving the shortfall as it is or resorting to a withdrawal from the fund to some extent, or some other measure.

Q. Prime Minister Yasuo Fukuda expressed his intention to convert the road-specific tax revenues into general budget use in the tax system reform in the future. What do you think of it?

 I have stressed again and again in the assembly sessions the importance of establishing a new taxation or revenue system that is acceptable to the public. I won’t simply disregard the option of the said conversion.

Q. You told us that you will have an urgent meeting with other young governors for discussion. Do you intend to insist that the temporary tax rate must be maintained or criticize the governing parties and the opposition for their do-nothing attitude?

 All we want to say is that the ruling coalition and the opposite camp must have a thorough discussion and avoid giving the public and the local governments the inconveniences resulting from mismanagement and stagnation in the central political arena. That is the focal point of this meeting.

Q. It is still unclear what kind of disorder will actually arise from this issue, but are you considering countermeasures such as, say, setting up consultation counters?

 I think it will be necessary. The counters will probably be set up in the general offices or the Prefectural Office, I hope.

Q. It was announced yesterday that DBC Cruise Ferry will postpone launching the planned service of cargo-passenger ships. How do you propose to deal with this issue?

   The current circumstances require reorganization of the consortium. I have the impression that the parties on the Korean side are making every effort in order to achieve it and taking numerous measures on the assumption that ships will need to be purchased.  We need to take our own continuous measures to create tourists’ demand to use the service. We would like to keep on taking various steps to help its cargo sector, too.  In the next fiscal year, a conference of governors of Japan and South Korea will be held in Seoul. My attendance has been requested by the National Governors’ Association of Japan. In the conference, I will probably have opportunities to ask Gangwon-do Governor Kim Jinsun for his cooperation once again and meet South Korean President Lee Myung Bak. I will ask the president for his support, and we will continue to do our utmost.

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