García Padilla Administration Assigns $12M for Political Appointees
SAN JUAN—The executive director of Gov.-elect Ricardo Rosselló’s incoming transition committee, William Villafañe, criticized the decision by the outgoing Alejandro García Padilla administration to assign $12 million to liquidate payments to politically appointed employees, during a time in which hundreds of taxpayers are still waiting for their tax reimbursements and government suppliers have not been paid.
“It’s a disgrace. The first thing that came out today is the sheer lack of control in Puerto Rico’s budget expenses. There are still agencies spending what they don’t have, and apart from that, it now comes out that they owe each other $160 million in tax refunds and, even worse, have budgeted $12 million to liquidate the payroll of politically appointed employees,” Villafañe said during a Tuesday press conference after the morning transition hearings at the State Department.
Villafañe, who previously had a heated exchange with the president of the Puerto Rico Planning Board, Luis García Pelatti, said such actions were disrespectful to the Puerto Rican people.
“We have asked them where is the money for the taxpayers, suppliers, and for federal programs, and now they have the nerve to say that they will use what little they have to pay off bonuses. That deserves our full condemnation. My exhortation to the outgoing government is that they try to leave with dignity by making the necessary adjustments,” added Villafañe.
Elías Sánchez, president of the incoming administration’s transition committee, called on the García Padilla administration to use common sense and not spend that $12 million it has budgeted for the payroll of trusted employees.
“We are urging this administration to use common sense. According to his report, they have $12 million for politically appointed employees and we ask for that to be used pay tax reimbursements, pay suppliers, and transfer it to the retirement [fund]. In terms of priorities, politically appointed employees should wait the same as taxpayers have. Show some kind of empathy. We know they are getting out of their positions in December 31, but show some empathy,” said Sánchez.
In response, Secretary of State Víctor Suárez, president of the outgoing government’s transition committee, said that they have paid retirees and will pay politically appointed employees, as well as the rest of the government payroll, as it is their right, “and according to the state of liquidity of the government.”
Meanwhile, Treasury Secretary Juan Zaragoza said that the government currently owes $140 million in tax reimbursements and that the goal is to reduce that debt to $15 to $20 million by December 31.
“They are diverting attention from the most important issue. What is the plan so that the government does not close at the beginning of the fiscal year and retirees can collect their check? What are the specific measures and why they do not reveal them? We have recommended that they continue our efforts to access Title 3 of Promesa and if they do, they will be able to keep the government open,” added Suárez.
During the second day of public hearings, the secretary of the Treasury pointed out that in this four-year period, the increase in tax revenue collection was increased from 54% to 68%.
“We are developing measures to increase revenues on alcohol and oil taxes. This is a question of planning, executing, measuring, reviewing and re-executing. There are collection problems on all taxes,” said Zaragoza.
The Treasury secretary said that the ideal collection rate should be between 75% and 80%.