Lawmakers allege Puerto Rico gov planned destruction of municipal governments, new multimillion-dollar tax
Minority reps question bill to create counties, reform property tax
SAN JUAN – Minority Popular Democratic Party Reps. Rafael Hernández, José Varela and Javier Aponte alleged Thursday that the proposal of Gov. Ricardo Rosselló to consolidate municipalities into counties “is part of his plan to destroy the municipal governments and the figure of the mayors and that it takes $350 million” from towns.
“Eliminating municipal governments should not be the north, our efforts should be directed to bring the services offered today by the central government to the people through the municipalities, which are the ones that give direct attention to the people. For this, we could start with four items, which we have already proposed, such as the municipalization of schools, the municipalization of security services, the management of road infrastructure, and the management of the entire emergency component,” Hernández said at a press conference.
For his part, Varela questioned the intentions of the governor’s proposal, which he said was presented without having a legislative measure ready.
“The proposal of Rosselló poses a serious blow to the municipal governance of our municipalities and their respective mayors, who will change from managing municipalities to the management of a complaints office. Similarly, when the county is established, they will make way for the loss of municipal jobs,” he said.
For the lawmaker it is curious, that “the same day that the governor made his announcement about the creation of counties, the secretary of the Department of Treasury will present an alternative to modify the property tax model of CRIM, which is nothing else than to eliminate the tax exemption so everyone has to pay, and this will ensure that both proposals are not linked.”
Aponte added “that what the Secretary of the Treasury proposes is a tax of 11 cents per square meter of property, which will make everyone pay equally: our elderly people, the retirees, those who live in plots, apartments and urbanizations, to low-income people. Then, the question would be: Who else will pay to reach the 9 billion square meters needed to raise the billions in taxes proposed by Rosselló? Cooperatives, non-profit organizations, SMEs or agricultural farms?”
Hernández assured that “this is a subject that has been maturing for a long time, since the [Puerto Rico] bankruptcy was established, and that if our proposal to not to transfer CRIM collections to the General Fund (FG) and vice versa (FG to CRIM) had been accepted, to avoid that the fiscal problems of the State affect the municipalities, we would not be in this situation today. Time has proven us right.”
Varela added that “it is necessary to establish population threshold mechanisms to offer services by municipality. Those municipalities that cannot meet the scale of services by population, may join in consortiums, without having to create a structure of an intermediate government or county, so they are more agile, effective and without bureaucracy.”
The lawmakers urged that mayors be included in the development of “real proposals to address the crisis of the municipalities. The moment the governor decides to attend the president of the Association of Mayors, José ‘Joe’ Román Abreu, we will be available to collaborate in the evaluation of the drafted bill presented by the first executive, so that there are is a fair analysis and consensus,” they said.