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Smith says he will be 'available' for Budget vote

Published:Tuesday | March 14, 2017 | 12:00 AM
Derrick Smith

The St Andrew North Western Member of Parliament Derrick Smith has said he will be present for any parliamentary vote for the passage of the 2017-2018 Budget next week.

"I will be available for any parliamentary vote," Smith told The Gleaner yesterday from Miami, Florida, where he has been getting treatment for an undisclosed illness. "I am doing as good as projected. In fact, in some areas, even better. I'll be okay."

Smith is the leader of government business in the House of Representatives. Everald Warmington has been filling the post for almost a month since his absence.

Smith's presence next week Wednesday, when the debate on the Appropriation Bill (Budget) ends, would stave off a potential constitutional crisis.

Under fiscal rules, the Budget must be passed by April 1, when the 2017-2018 fiscal year starts.

If Smith remained absent, that would reduce the Government's numbers to 31 - the same as the Opposition's. However, only 30 members of the Government would be allowed to vote, as the speaker, under the rules of the House, is not allowed to vote unless there is a deadlock.

The PNP has described the tax package to fund the Budget as "unconscionable and a betrayal of the trust of the people in their Government" - a posture that has led to questions about whether the Opposition will call for a divide and outvote the Government.

Yesterday, while on his way into the House, Phillip Paulwell, the leader of opposition business, told The Gleaner that a meeting that covered the issue "went well". However, he declined to state the Opposition's position.