Anti-furlough bill passed in Puerto Rico Legislature
SAN JUAN – Amid criticism of Gov. Ricardo Rosselló’s policies and requests for a decolonization process for Puerto Rico, the island’s House of Representatives approved a bill to declare its opposition to the furlough approved by the fiscal control board.
During his turn, interrupted abruptly as he was preparing to present several amendments to House Concurrent Resolution 42, Popular Democratic Party (PDP) Rep. Manuel Natal asked the government to “stop doing what is convenient and begin doing what is right.”
“The right thing to do is what one’s conscience dictates, what one knows is beneficial for the country and defends it regardless of consequences. The convenient thing is, on the other hand, what the governor has done, who expects to see how the tide turns to then assume a position according to what is convenient for him,” he said during his 15-minute speech.
To defend his position, the PDP legislator argued that the Rosselló administration did what was convenient rather than what was right by “asking additional sacrifices from the middle class and the less affluent,” instead of stopping the tax incentives for foreign corporations.
“Efficiency for you people [government] is synonymous to cutting costs, cost cutting is synonymous to eliminating workers’ rights […] A more efficient government, of course, in the reduction of working hours, in the millions that will be saved when people get 10% of their working hours cut,” he said of the 138,000 families that would be affected.
For his part, the spokesman of the Puerto Rican Independence Party (PIP), Denis Márquez, argued that the fiscal plan approved by the fiscal board on March 13 and celebrated by Rosselló and the Legislature “is nothing other than the sentencing” of thousands of workers.
However, Márquez said he would vote against the resolution that promotes legislative support for the chief executive’s decision not implement the furlough program, pointing out a line of the measure that assures that the island’s economy “has begun to rise.”
“Here we are against the fiscal control board. Welcome, to those who are against the furlough, [but] not only on paper. They say that from words to action there is big gap […] We will see if the court orders having to comply [with the furlough] and if the Government of Puerto Rico is not going to comply. And if it is not going to comply, it has my support,” Márquez said.
Meanwhile, House Speaker Carlos Méndez stressed that “opposing just to oppose” the resolution presented by the New Progressive Party delegation is not an option at a time when thousands of public workers could see a salary reduction.
“The colonial condition that the people of Puerto Rico live in and that some don’t dare face is what has brought us to this situation,” Méndez said. “[The fiscal board’s decisions] are going to impoverish the people more, they will stop the economic development that is beginning to emerge and in addition to that, it will affect the retired people,” Méndez said.
The House approved the measure with 38 votes in favor and one against, from Rep. Márquez.
In its final vote, the upper chamber passed its equivalent measure, Senate Concurrent Resolution 21. The body also approved House Bill 1164 to restructure the Government Development Bank and H.B. 1142 to increase the licensing cost of coin-operated machines.