Legislature Signs Off on $8.78 Billion Budget for Fiscal 2017
SAN JUAN – The seventh ordinary session of the 17th Legislative Assembly concluded Thursday with the approval of an $8.78 billion budget that goes into effect July 1 and includes $200 million to pay government suppliers and $451 million for the payment of interest on constitutionally guaranteed debt.
The budget was passed shortly after midnight. The $451 million for the debt will come from various sources, including the room tax, the crude oil tax, the excise tax on cigarettes and the revenue from vehicle registration stickers, known as the marbete.
According to the Senate, the budget contains a provision that sets aside $50 million for police officers to start contributing to Social Security, $100 million for the Teachers Retirement System, and $320 million for the commonwealth Employees and Judicature retirement systems.
Lawmakers agreed on a final version of the Puerto Rico Aqueduct and Sewer Authority Revitalization Act, which authorizes the issuance of $900 million in debt and an exchange of notes that will follow the parameters set forth by the newly enacted Puerto Rico Oversight, Management, and Economic Stability Act (Promesa).
They also passed a single version of a bill that legalizes houses built within the maritime-land zone in Lahas’ La Parguera community. The final bill gives residents surface rights for a 40-year period, said Puerto Rican Independence Party Sen. María de Lourdes Santiago, who is running for governor.
However, the final version of the legislation that would create the Banco de Desarrollo Empresarial, did not obtain the needed votes for approval in the House.
Before ending its session, the Senate bid farewell to former Senate President Antonio Fas Alzamora, the longest serving lawmaker at the Legislature, who is retiring. The House, meanwhile, bid farewell to House Minority Leader Jenniffer González, who is running for resident commissioner, and to House Majority Leader Charlie Hernández, who is not seeking reelection. Good wishes were also expressed for Rep. Luisa “Piti” Gándara, who did not win the Popular Democratic Party primary for a Senate seat.