No Puerto Rico agency heads have resigned after governor’s remarks
CAROLINA – Gov. Ricardo Rosselló confirmed Tuesday that he has not received any resignation letters from members of his cabinet after he called on the heads of agencies to step down if they felt they wouldn’t be able to operate with the cuts proposed for next fiscal year’s budget, the first certified under the oversight of the island’s fiscal management board.
“I have not received any letters of resignation, which lets me know everyone is on the same track,” the governor said. “All these men and women have my trust, but I made it clear from the first day that this was going to be a government of transformation and transition, that we would have to do much more with much less.”
Accompanied by a group of agency heads who are part of the “Renueva tu Escuela” school renovation program, Rosselló said the “errors” in the budget by the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) have been corrected, so he is confident his team will continue to work by his side.
“To each and every one of my heads of agency, I told them when I offered them the position that we were going to have to reduce spending on this occasion,” the governor said Monday. “The agency chiefs who cannot do that can submit their resignation immediately,” he added, which was taken as a kind of scolding at the criticism of certain officials during the budget hearings.
Among the heads of agencies who expressed concern about the budgetary allocations they received are secretaries of Justice, Wanda Vázquez, and Sports and Recreation, Andrés Waldemar Volmar. However, on Tuesday, they said they did not feel alluded to when the governor made his remarks because the doubts they had regarding the funds received by their agencies were clarified.
“Justice’s budget had a mistake by the OMB, but in the testimony, I declared, so I did not really feel alluded to in the remarks. [The error] was corrected before I appeared for the hearing, and in the hearing I said it was already corrected, but obviously it came out that it is was not enough with what came out of OMB,” the Justice secretary told reporters after the governor’s press conference at the Roberto Clemente Walker School in Carolina.
Vázquez said she met with the governor to discuss the budgetary error, and that at the moment has no problems with the money received by the agency, because “the error was corrected.”
In the budget hearings, the official said the agency’s budget was “insufficient to meet programmatic commitments, particularly the fight against crime,” because it failed to receive $12 million, a matter that was clarified.
The Sports and Recreation secretary explained that his criticisms against the budget were not directed at the central government, but were a call to the Legislature to maintain the special allocations that corresponded to the agency. Therefore, he did not feel alluded to by the executive’s call, he said.
“I have an effective communication with the governor and we are working according to his will. Of course, we have a ministerial duty and a ministerial duty to a country where public opinion is diverse and some try to confuse [one thing with another], we were responsible in letting the Senate and the House know that they should commit to those special allocations we receive through the joint resolution,” Volmar said during the announcement of the school program.
Meanwhile, Education Secretary Julia Keleher clarified that her remarks about the $100 million needed for school maintenance were not intended as a petition or complaint against the budget, but rather an analysis of the money needed to maintain the campuses. When asked by Caribbean Business, Keleher said the Montessori schools did not receive money from the general fund, but from special allocations, so the Legislature was asked to carry them out.