Gov. Pierluisi Delivers Address on ‘Revised’ Budget
Says Fiscal Board ‘Fell Short’
SAN JUAN — Gov. Pedro Pierluisi delivered the first budget address of his mandate by stating that the Financial Oversight and Management Board for Puerto Rico (FOMB), the congressionally mandated office to oversee the government’s finances, “fell short in multiple areas.”
The governor also stressed the need to assign funds for the Puerto Rico Federal Affairs Administration, an agency that will oversee a so-called shadow delegation to be sent to Washington, D.C. to seek Puerto Rico’s “political equality,” and lobby for the island’s annexation to the United States.
“You, like me, believe in Puerto Rico and in our ability to overcome all of our challenges. We are going to unite to head daily in the same direction, to fight daily against our common enemies, and to work hard for Puerto Rico every day,” he said.
Pierluisi’s proposed budget amounts to nearly $10.35 billion, or $233 million more than the one submitted by the FOMB earlier this month. He said the increase is “prudent and reasonable” to address a variety of areas such as economic development, the municipalities, the University of Puerto Rico (UPR) and the Department of Health. The governor is proposing the changes through an amendment of the budget bill submitted by the FOMB.
“I am aware that the main areas addressed in the bill that I am presenting to you are matters in which there is convergence and consensus among all of us. That is why I am confident that you will take the step to fight for the budget we need,” Pierluisi said.
After detailing Puerto Rico’s cuts due to austerity measures enforced by the FOMB, Pierluisi highlighted the need of promoting the island for investment and tourism. He discussed the importance of maintaining a $50 million assignment for the Central American Games to promote the island and the need for employment opportunities for younger generations through a program financed with $10 million. Still, his message quickly moved to the subject of municipal finances and their services to their constituents.
“We recognize that the fiscal situation has required cuts in many areas, but it is not reasonable to affect the essential services provided by the municipalities, and that goes against Promesa,” he said, referring to the federal Puerto Rico Oversight, Management, and Economic Stability Act, which established the Oversight Board.
“I will do everything in my power to ensure that our mayors have a helping hand in government, including the funds necessary to carry out their work. Our budget must provide transfers to the municipalities without additional cuts, maintaining the fiscal support of $132 million,” he said.
Pierluisi also wants to allocate $550,000 for both the Federation and the Association of mayors, representing the municipal heads of the New Progressive Party and Popular Democratic Party, respectively.
The governor also spoke extensively about the need to protect the UPR’s budget. “I oppose the board making additional cuts to the budget, and I propose that its annual allocation remains $560 million,” he said.
“Additional cuts to the university may jeopardize funds allocated in the American Rescue Plan Act,” he said while addressing other allocations proposed for Corrections, the Justice Department, Social Services, and the Cardiovascular Center of Puerto Rico and the Caribbean.
“I am aware that the main areas addressed in this resolution are matters in which there is consensus between all of us. That is why I trust that you will join the fight to achieve the budget we need,” he said.