Fiscal Board Denies Funding for Shadow Congressional Delegation
Puerto Rico Speaker Says Panel Validated House’s Repeal of $7 Million Measure
SAN JUAN — Puerto Rico House Speaker Rafael “Tatito” Hernández announced Tuesday that the Financial Oversight and Management Board (FOMB) confirmed that it would not authorize the commonwealth’s use of some $7 million to finance Act 167 of 2020, the Act to Create the Puerto Rico Congressional Delegation.
“In light of these facts, the board is unable to make way for the administration of Pedro Pierluisi’s request to reprogram these monies for the purpose of paying lobbyists to advance his political-partisan efforts in Washington,” Hernández said in a statement.
The House speaker further noted that “these are inappropriate and undemocratic acts that detract from the credibility of members of the New Progressive Party (NPP), in their attempts to promote the statehood status. This House passed legislation on Feb. 2 (House Bill 21) which, in effect, repeals Act 167 and today the board validates our position.”
“This afternoon, we reaffirm that we will defend in any forum our constitutional prerogatives, which are even recognized by the Financial Oversight and Management Board,” he added.
The fiscal board’s executive director, Natalie Jaresko, wrote to the Office of Management and Budget’s (OMB) executive director, Juan Carlos Blanco, responding “to reprogramming request No. 2021-20376 submitted by the Office of Management and Budget (“OMB”) on behalf of the State Elections Commission (“SEC”) on February 3, 2021.
“The submission requests Oversight Board approval of a reprogramming from the FY20 Unallocated Capex [capital expenditures] to cover the costs of a special election to select a delegation to the United States Congress to pursue statehood pursuant to Act 167-2020,” Jaresko wrote.
She pointed to a March 5 letter from Speaker Hernández saying that the legislature “was never informed” of the request” before OMB’s submission to the board, “and the Legislature opposes the reprogramming and is preparing legislation to repeal Act 167-2020.”
Jaresko added: “In light of this, the Oversight Board is unable to act upon your request at this time.
“The Oversight Board encourages the Governor and the Legislature to work together collaboratively, if possible, concerning the funding of Act 167-2020 or any similar law. Please be advised the Oversight Board does not take any position on Puerto Rico’s future political status.”