Puerto Rico government to examine fiscal board changes to budget
SAN JUAN – Puerto Rico’s financial oversight board has passed a unanimous resolution to submit its own budget for fiscal 2019 after indicating that the one submitted by the island’s government last month does not follow the provisions of the government’s fiscal plan.
The budget approved by the board is of $6.92 billion for government operations or about $2 billion less than Gov. Ricardo Rosselló’s, which estimated $8.53 billion for government operations.
In a statement, Christian Sobrino, the governor’s representative to the board, said the budget presented by the panel includes line items negotiated with Rosselló.
“With this, we guarantee payment of the Christmas bonus for public employees, the pensions, additional funds for the University of Puerto Rico, the municipalities and our economic development. However, we will examine if the adjustments that the [fiscal board] submitted by agency respond to the actual needs of each one or if they should be part of the savings of the consolidations established in the Fiscal Plan,” he said.
For example, Sobrino said the budget of independent agencies such as the Comptroller’s Office, the Government Ethics Office and the Independent Special Prosecutor’s Panel should not be changed.
“Likewise, we must examine the language that establishes the power of the Board and the Government to implement the budget. As in the previous year, a process of public hearings and discussions between the Legislative Assembly, the Executive [branch], the Board and the different sectors of our society begins now, and we hope that in the end, it will produce a responsible budget that will direct the progress of Puerto Rico,” Sobrino added.
The board’s budget increases funding for some line items and reduces it for others. A noteworthy example is the increased spending for the government’s Title III bankruptcy-like case under the Promesa law, to $271.2 million from of $261 million. In a decision Wednesday, Judge Laura Taylor Swain, who presides over the court proceedings, requested that all advisory contracts be made public by the Treasury Department.
The board also increased funds for the Federal Affairs Administration to $3.5 million from $3.4 million. However, the budget for the Fiscal Agency and Financial Advisory Authority of Puerto Rico was cut to $75.6 million from $83.8 million.
It budget presented raises the amount for police and teacher salaries from $113.9 million to $138.8 million, but police Social Security was cut to $14 million from $33 million.
The board document increases the operating amount for the Infrastructure Financing Authority from $12.3 million to $14.4 million but reduces the Public Broadcasting Corp.’s budget to $ 7.7 million from $8.6 million.
The board included a separate resolution passed by the House of Representatives authorizing the use of $279.8 million from collection of the excise tax on crude oil, unfinished oils, and end products derived from oil and other hydrocarbon mixtures to be used for Education Department and the Public Safety Department’s Police Bureau payroll and related expenses during the fiscal year 2019.