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House Budget Hearings Set to Resume After Sunday Primaries

By on June 1, 2016

SAN JUAN—With less than a month for the current session to end, House Treasury Committee Chairman Rafael “Tatito” Hernández said Wednesday he has postponed budget hearings to next week because of the primary elections.

“I cannot do it on the day immediately after the primary because I need to give people a rest,” he told Caribbean Business.

rafael tatito hernandez

House Treasury Committee Chairman Rafael “Tatito” Hernández

On Wednesday, because of an unexpected event, the Treasury Committee cancelled the budget hearing in which Justice Secretary César Miranda was scheduled to talk about several topics, including the island’s debt.

Hernández said he will resume hearings to June 7 and hold eight days of consecutive hearings, in which he expects to go over the budgets of over 100 agencies by asking their respective heads to testify in groups.

He said he plans to have the House pass the budget by June 21 at the latest to give the Senate time to evaluate it. June 25 is the last day to pass bills in the current session, which ends June 30.

The design of the budget, he said, will focus on providing funds to essential services and priorities. Afterwards, Hernández plans to deal with the debt payment, he added. The government has allocated some $200 million for such payments, but the lawmaker for the Popular Democratic Party wants to increase that amount.

“My goal is to help avoid litigation as much as possible by having a budget that makes a balance despite having few resources, and the Government Development Bank is not going to be there to help,” he noted.

Hernandez said the government has to be more efficient and “redirect resources where they are actually needed.”

A study that local think-tank Estudios Técnicos presented during a recent Senate Treasury Committee hearing advised the government to reduce the working week to cut $500 million. They argued this would prove a better alternative than laying off workers, because doing so may reduce the gross domestic product by some $800 million.

“I have not seen that report…But my focus is not to carry out layoff or cut the working week, for that matter,” he said.

 

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