Puerto Rico Senate president puts municipalities at top of agenda
SAN JUAN – Senate President Thomas Rivera Schatz has defined the course of the upcoming legislative session by pointing out that his priority, as of August, will be to address the fiscal and structural challenges of Puerto Rico’s 78 municipalities.
“My priority is to serve the municipalities. To seek legislation that allows them to have a fiscal, budgetary, financial and legal structure that is reliable for municipal governments. The CRIM [Spanish acronym for Municipal Revenue Collections Center], the mandatory decrees, the administrative collaboration agreements between municipalities in order to consolidate. All that and I want to discuss it with the groups of NPP [New Progressive Party] mayors and PDP [Popular Democratic Party] mayors,” he said.
The Senate president explained that the consolidation of services is what he strives for.
“For example, a single finance office for six or seven municipalities. A single human resources office, a single waste collection department, a single municipal police. That would also allow municipalities to compete for federal funds and distribute the financial burden and the responsibility to provide the service,” he said, adding he has approached NPP and PDP mayors to get work meetings going.
Tax reform is another priority for the Senate leader in the upcoming session.
“From what I have discussed with the governor, it is going to be a tremendous tax reform, so that people start looking at Puerto Rico as a place where doing business is worthwhile and where you can live and work peacefully,” he said.
During the interview with Rivera Schatz, Caribbean Business asked if he thought that will be possible considering there is a fiscal oversight board? “Of course,” he replied. “We are also fighting in Congress to eliminate the colony, but we will continue working.”
How has it been for you, with your strong character, to have to deal with a fiscal board, CB asked.
“I work as is my responsibility under the Constitution of Puerto Rico and to those who elected me. The board is nothing more than a reminder of Puerto Rico’s colonial condition, which is something that does not affect only me but rather affects all Puerto Ricans. The only issue in which they got involved was the budget; they didn’t meddle in anything else. It’s a naked portrait of the colony, which I have fought against all my life,” he said.
The senatorial leader acknowledged that the last legislative session “was intense,” but reiterated that he “doesn’t lose sleep over” the board.
“I didn’t have to make adjustments to meet any requirement coming from them. I approved the budget I approved and they chose to change it later; that’s their concern,” he said.
And they did not impose the budget on you?
“Not on me, on the Government of Puerto Rico. What the board says and does doesn’t bother me at all. It is shameful for them [they kept the $60 million budget] and shameful for those who defend the colony, which is the PDP. If they had any shame, they would denounce it,” he said.