Legislative minorities criticize P.R. governor’s budget message
SAN JUAN – Minority delegations from the Popular Democratic Party (PDP) and the Puerto Rican Independence Party (PIP) in the Legislature lobbied harsh criticisms against Gov. Ricardo Rosselló for what they deemed a lack of preciseness in his first message on the island’s budget.
PDP House Minority Leader Rafael “Tatito” Hernández said the lack of specific numbers in the recommended $9.562 billion budget for fiscal year 2018 and what would be allocated for essential services was “regrettable.”
“It is the second time that the governor presents himself before the country in the legislative assembly to address Puerto Rico’s fiscal situation. The first time, he presented a message without a fiscal plan, and now, the second time, he presented a message about the budget without the budget. It is truly regrettable that at a time when the country is demanding that the governor detail the solutions—what his priorities are and what he will defend during the Title III bankruptcy process [of the federal Promesa law]—he comes here with a strictly political approach,” Hernández said.
The PDP representative said it is contradictory that the projected budget is higher when revenue has decreased.
“There are countless hidden taxes here. The [tax reform] has to be paid somehow to make up for lost revenues,” added Hernández Montañez, who for the past four years chaired the House Treasury and Budget Committee.
Meanwhile, Sen. Eduardo Bhatia, the former Senate president and current PDP minority leader in that chamber, argued that the governor’s message was geared to endorse the June 11 political-status plebiscite, rather than detail allocation of the recommended budget for the next fiscal year.
“There was no budget message here; what we had here was an advance to the June 11 plebiscite. How much will the [University of Puerto Rico] be? Nothing [on that]. No one knows how much the cut to education, health, the municipalities will be.
“Faced with this reality the country must be in shock because nobody can understand how this governor declared Puerto Rico bankrupt 27 days ago and today gives a message to the country that’s totally different from the reality of the country’s fiscal situation,” Bhatia said.
PIP Senate Minority Leader Juan Dalmau denounced that the governor didn’t propose to distribute the burden among the most privileged; specifically, to impose more taxes on foreign companies and reexamine incentives under Acts 20 and 22.
“There was no hint of an economic development plan, no specific proposal other than what has already been approved in the Legislature. The governor has announced a series of supposed reliefs that will be costly. Everything is subject to applying the IVU [Spanish acronym for the sales & use tax] to internet sales and traffic fines,” Dalmau said.
Meanwhile, Denis Márquez, spokesman for the PIP in the House, said that there is no way to generate employment in Puerto Rico by means of speculation.
“There is a line in the message that establishes a reduction of 47% in the exemptions. We have to ask ourselves if they will reduce the legislative donations, which would be terrible news for the most vulnerable sectors of Puerto Rico that receive services through nonprofit organizations,” Márquez said.