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The ruling Liberal Democratic Party agreed at a joint panel meeting Friday to urge the government to avoid cutting public works spending or using road construction-specific tax revenues for general purposes in the fiscal 2003 budget.

Those attending the joint meeting between the Research Commission on Highways and the Transport Division of the Policy Research Council stated their opposition to the measures, claiming they would adversely affect regional economies and jobs.

They asserted the measures would also discourage investment in necessary infrastructure.

The debate over using gasoline excise and automobile weight tax revenues, normally earmarked for road construction, has been one of the thorniest for Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi’s administration, as it cuts to the heart of the pork-barrel politics he claims to oppose.

The LDP panel members said car drivers may call for cuts in gasoline excise and automobile weight tax if revenues from those taxes were to be used for purposes other than road construction.

Makoto Koga, chairman of the Research Commission on Highways, said the government should not target public works alone if it wants to cut spending.

“We should discuss it (the spending cut) in a wider context, including other budgetary items, such as education, science, defense and social security,” Koga said.

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