Thursday, January 20, 2022

Puerto Rico Capitol leaders decry fiscal board move

By on June 29, 2018

SAN JUAN – The speaker of the Puerto Rico House of Representatives, Carlos “Johnny” Méndez Núñez, strongly condemned Friday the action by the island’s fiscal oversight board to eliminate, in the new, revised government fiscal plan, public employees’ Christmas Bonus, as well as a $50 million fund to aid municipalities, among other items and said legislation eliminating the funds won’t be passed.

“We condemn this action by the Board which will have the effect of punishing our public servants, men and women who gave everything to lift Puerto Rico up after the battering of Hurricanes Irma and Maria last year. This House of Representatives will not approve any legislation that eliminates the Christmas Bonus. Nor will we take aid items from the municipalities. Now, more than ever, our mayors need our assistance to mitigate…the dramatic drop in collections recorded after the impact of the hurricanes,” the House speaker, who is of the ruling New Progressive Party (NPP), said in a statement.

Fiscal board Chairman José Carrión announced Friday the intention to recertify the fiscal plans for the government and certain instrumentalities, which would eliminate about $300 million from the budget, which in turn would cause the elimination of the Christmas bonus and impact other funding line items.

Puerto Rico oversight board to amend fiscal plans in reaction to gov’t ‘noncompliance’

In a letter sent to the governor and legislative leaders, the board declared that changes will be made to the government’s fiscal plan after the Legislature failed to approve labor reform and repealing the Unjustified Dismissal Act of Puerto Rico, or Act 80, which was a requirement of the amended Fiscal Plan certified unanimously by the Board on May 30.

“This House of Representatives, along with the Senate and the Executive [branch] has taken unprecedented steps in our history to control public spending, reduce it, implement measures to establish more rigorous fiscal controls and lay the foundations for a true economic recovery. In fact, in some instances, even deeper measures have been implemented than the Board suggested. That is why we understand that this action is totally unnecessary,” the speaker added.

The legislative leader also held that the board has not acted on its mandate, under the Promesa Law, to boost the economy of Puerto Rico.

“The Board has not taken action to boost economic development, something they have to do under PROMESA. The situation in our Island changed with the scourge of Irma and María, the latter, the sixth most destructive hurricane in the history of the world. However, they have not done anything with the recommendations of the Congressional Task Force on Economic Growth in Puerto Rico. They have not taken any action to get us more federal funds, to achieve parity in Medicaid and Medicare funds, to facilitate investment in our small and midsize businesses, among many other initiatives presented in December 2016. After Maria, this has a greater importance,” Méndez Nuñez denounced.

He also said that the task force proposed that legislation be passed to provide assistance to small and midsize businesses under the programs administered by the Small Business Administration (SBA) and that amends Section 24 of the federal Internal Revenue Code to allow eligible families in Puerto Rico to claim the federal tax credit for dependent children. It is estimated that this proposal could inject $2.9 billion into the local economy over the next 10 years, benefiting more than 355,000 families and 400,000 children, with an average annual payment of $770.

“Let public servants know we are going to defend them. Our mayors [should] know we are going to fight for them. Let the students and our workers in the private sector know they are not alone. In this House of Representatives, we are with you. The Board does not impose public policy, the Board can establish parameters for a budget, but cannot impose its criterion [budget line] item by item; that is only done by the elected officials of the people of Puerto Rico,” he stressed.

The legislative leader added that the potential “imposition” of the new fiscal plan represents the “crudest” example of the “colonial condition we live in and the imperative need to change it.”

Senate president reacts

Meanwhile, Senate President Thomas Rivera Schatz, also of the NPP, urged the governor to convene a meeting to identify a “just” alternative for all sectors after Rosselló said he wants to reach a “resolution that is beneficial for the people of Puerto Rico,” using “mechanisms that are available: call for an extraordinary [legislative session], dialogue or whatever.”

“I congratulate the Governor. That’s the way. We also want the best for Puerto Rico,” the Senate leader said.

“Mr. Governor, call for a meeting, today [Friday] or tomorrow [Saturday], before the end of the session, where the Chairman of the [fiscal board], the Resident Commissioner, the legislative leaders of all parties and with the presence of the group ‘Medios por Puerto Rico’ analyze and explore alternatives on the government budget and the rights of private-sector workers, who would be affected by the repeal of Act 80. We seek a fair alternative for all sectors. That could be called dialogue and it would be in front of the people of Puerto Rico. As it has to be,” he added.

Reacting earlier to the board’s letter, the Senate president wrote the following on social media:

“The consideration of the Budget of the Government of Puerto Rico is an issue that our Constitution puts in the hands of the Governor and the Legislative Assembly. That is unquestionable. Approving a SMALLER budget than the one proposed by the Board is not enough. They [the fiscal board] want a law to fire employees in the private sector because that will be, according to them, good for Puerto Rico.

“Our colonial condition, shameful for the United States of America and for those who accept and promote it here, inserts the Fiscal Control Board in the consideration of the Budget of Puerto Rico. That Board, at the end of the next fiscal year, will have cost us approximately $500 million without having solved ANYTHING…in Puerto Rico. That money could be paid to those who Puerto Rico owes money, our creditors.

“As of today, only law firms, consultants, [board Executive Director] Ms. [Natalie] Jaresko and others linked to the Board have filled their pockets with juicy salaries, benefits, contracts and business.

“Meanwhile, the Board and those close to it threaten, without any justification or economic foundation, with eliminating the Christmas bonus, vacations, job security for the private sector workers, scholarships for students, funds for infrastructure projects and economic development, among other important items. They threaten to be worse than Hurricane Maria! They say they can cause us more damage than a weather event.

“Act 80 does not cost the Government anything, the dismissals that will cause it to be repealed will cost us a lot. The Board and its decisions will cost us close to $500 million. What do you think?

“The NPP was founded on the premise that ‘The meek come first.’ The PDP [Popular Democratic Party] on one occasion posited ‘shame against money’ and the pro-independence sector embraced the phrase of [Pedro] Albizu, ‘the homeland means courage and sacrifice.’ I trust that those principles are alive in our respective hearts. To those who do not share any of these three ideas I ask:
Does it make sense to repeal a law with NO KIND of basis for doing it? Repeal a law out of fear, threat, intimidation, blackmail?

“The incapacity is the Board’s, in the colonial situation of Puerto Rico. The intransigence, in those who DO NOT UNDERSTAND THAT.

“I have heard a phrase that some Puerto Ricans have said that speaks a lot about our will #yonomequito [I won’t quit], I answer; ME NEITHER.”

He went on to say:

“The version of Senate Bill 1011 that the Senate approved was fair, reasonable and fair. It offers the space for the creation of new jobs without taking acquired rights from our current workers. It just does not allow firing unjustifiably. You know it. Stop your agenda of pitting Puerto Ricans against Puerto Ricans.”

-Cybernews contributed to this report.

You must be logged in to post a comment Login