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Saturday, June 30, 2012

Hashimoto to back tax-reform candidates

Getting funds to local level is the key, he says


Staff writer

OSAKA — As the ruling and opposition parties continue to debate separate bills that would merge the city and prefecture of Osaka, Mayor Toru Hashimoto announced his local Osaka Ishin no Kai (One Osaka) group will assist candidates nationwide in the next Lower House election who favor fundamental tax reforms that would greatly reduce the central government's power of the purse.

Hashimoto made the announcement at an Osaka Ishin no Kai fundraiser Thursday night that was attended by 1,500 people, including Nagoya Mayor Takashi Kawamura, a close Hashimoto supporter who is expected to field his own candidates in the next Lower House election.

The Osaka mayor criticized the way the Diet handled the recent passage of legislation to raise the consumption tax, and said changing the structure of the tax system to give local authorities more control over how the money is spent will now be the major campaign issue.

"We can change Japan by simply making the consumption tax a local tax and abolishing the system whereby the central government allocates a portion of tax money to localities. Financially, this will allow local governments to become more independent from the central government," Hashimoto said.

Currently only about 1 percent of the money raised through the 5 percent consumption tax ends up in local and prefectural governments.

Hashimoto's announcement that he is going to make local control over tax spending the main campaign issue came as the Democratic Party of Japan, the Liberal Democratic Party, New Komeito, Your Party and Kokumin Shinto (People's New Party) reached broad agreement on three bills to merge the city and prefecture of Osaka.

The five parties aim to create one new bill that is to be jointly submitted during the current Diet session.

If the bill is passed, the city and prefecture would become like Tokyo, with wards having far more autonomy than is now the case. Ward heads would run for office, and each ward would set its own budget.

While the merger of Osaka has much support in the Diet, there is stiff opposition in the central government bureaucracy as well as within the Osaka municipal and prefectural bureaucracies, and it is unclear if it will pass during this session.

Hashimoto and his supporters view approval of the merger and the tax reform issue as two necessary steps toward the ultimate goal of creating a nationwide system of semiautonomous regional government "states" that would replace the current prefectural system.

On Friday, to push the idea of an eventual state system, Hashimoto said that rather than refer to the merger bills as aiming for the creation of an Osaka region, they should call for an Osaka "state."

Currently, 888 students are studying in a political school established by Hashimoto in March and at least 300 are expected to run in the next Lower House election. In addition to Kawamura, Hashimoto allies Aichi Gov. Hideaki Omura and Tokyo Gov. Shintaro Ishihara have formed political schools that will likely field candidates for the poll, creating the possibility of a ruling bloc of Diet members from newly established regional parties.



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The Japan Times

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