Budget talks ended in a stalemate Thursday at the Legislative Assembly, with Assembly Vice President Marcela Guerrero adjourning the session at 6 p.m. without a deal. Costa Rica’s Constitution states that legislators must pass next year’s budget by Nov. 30, meaning that lawmakers will have to work Saturday toward a second and final round of voting.
Legislative President Henry Mora called for Saturday’s extraordinary session to begin at 3 p.m., as lawmakers normally have meetings in their communities on Fridays.
Mora, from the ruling Citizen Action Party, on Tuesday passed the budget proposal in a first round of debate, despite his colleagues rejecting it by a vote of 26-25. It now must pass a second-round vote.
Opposition legislators hope to trim the ₡7.9 trillion ($14.5 billion) proposal for 2015 submitted by the administration of President Luis Guillermo Solís, a plan that calls for 19 percent more spending than in 2014. However, last week a majority of lawmakers voted against three separate proposals to cut Solís’ budget plan.
On Wednesday, a group of 14 lawmakers led by the Libertarian Movement Party’s Otto Guevara filed a complaint with the Constitutional Chamber of the Supreme Court, or Sala IV, questioning Mora’s decision to pass the proposal in a first-round debate despite not having the votes. Mario Redondo from the Christian Democratic Alliance, Rafael Ortiz from the Social Christian Unity Party, Rolando González from the National Liberation Party and Fabricio Alvarado from the National Restoration Party joined Guevara at the Supreme Court.
The complaint argues that Mora’s tactic potentially violated the democratic principle of majority rule.
“There was a negative 26-25 vote, and yet the [Assembly] president imposed his point of view,” Guevara said.
On Thursday evening, Mora said the Solís administration’s proposal automatically would be approved if lawmakers fail to reach a quorum of 38 on Saturday.
Guevara, meanwhile, has asked Sala IV justices to clarify the appropiate procedure if the plan fails to generate enough votes for approval. He said the Government Attorney’s Office already had responded to a similar consultation by saying that if amendments submitted by the Assembly’s Financial Affairs Commission are rejected, the only two remaining options are to pass the executive branch’s proposal or approve the same budget that is in place this year.
Sala IV justices now will have one month to decide if Mora’s resolution is unconstitutional.