Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Fiscal board to hold public meeting Friday in Puerto Rico

By on August 1, 2017

SAN JUAN – Amid expectation of an announcement about a reduction of public employee work days starting Sept. 1, the fiscal control board convened a new public meeting, its ninth, for Friday, Aug. 4, in Fajardo.

It is expected that the governing body address the furlough, a measure the administration of Gov. Ricardo Rosselló assures would be challenged to the end, as well as the fiscal plan of the Cooperatives Supervision & Insurance Corp. (Cossec by its Spanish acronym). The agenda also includes discussion on pension reform.

Retirement reform yet to be considered by Puerto Rico House

The meeting comes about at a time when the administration is trying to convince the fiscal board that it is not necessary to cut four work days a month for public employees and two for teachers, as required by the board when certifying the government’s fiscal plan on March 13. The measure would not affect public safety employees.

“The position of our administration is the [furlough] is not necessary,” the governor told Caribbean Business in a telephone interview from New York on Monday. He also reiterated that the administration would take the matter to court if the board keeps the measure in force.

The governor declared that “this type of initiative cannot be unilaterally [imposed],” and pointed out section 205 of the federal Promesa law. The administration argues that this section gives the government discretion on whether to adopt board recommendations such as the furlough.

For its part, the fiscal board has repeatedly stated that the measure is part of the certified fiscal plan and, thus, is not a “recommendation,” as the government administration claims.

Meanwhile, the governor explained that his administration is working on a Voluntary Transition Program, a retirement window for public employees in non-essential positions. The measure would save the government an additional $1 billion over the next 10 years. The program, whose details are still being worked on, would include an economic incentive equal to the employee’s salary until the end of fiscal year 2018, which ends June 30.

“Regardless of the measure, we have shown that we are exceeding the expected savings and have imposed fiscal controls. The truth is there is no need to have it [the measure],” said Rosselló, adding that he is appealing “to sensibility and reason” to avoid the furlough.

As for the University of Puerto Rico, it not clear whether it will be discussed at the board’s meeting. During a meeting of the university’s board of trustees Monday, it was said the school had until Tuesday to deliver its fiscal plan to the oversight board created by Promesa. During the meeting, the school’s governing body approved a document that includes $1.4 billion in cuts over the next 10 years.

It is up to the fiscal board to reject, adopt or amend the plan approved by the academic institution.

At the fiscal board’s public meeting on April 28, Chairman José Carrión said that both Cossec and the UPR should deliver their fiscal plans “within the next 30 to 45 days.” Initially, the board expected to receive the documents for Cossec and the UPR on Feb. 21 and March 31, respectively.

To attend the fiscal board’s meeting at El Conquistador resort, pre-registration is required by noon Thursday. The form is available at the board’s website.

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