Puerto Rico fiscal board member: Too much pain with too little promise
SAN JUAN – Minus the vote of Ana Matosantos, who said, “I cannot support too much pain with too little promise,” Puerto Rico’s fiscal oversight board certified Thursday the fiscal plan for the Government of Puerto Rico, as well as the fiscal plans of the Electric Power Authority (Prepa) and the Aqueduct and Sewer Authority (Prasa) during its 12th public meeting, held at the Convention Center in San Juan.
Matosantos said she was not willing to approve cuts to the funds for the elderly population, children and people with disabilities or for the University of Puerto Rico. Nor making the cuts to pensions and imposing countless other austerity measures, when it means “more pain will come.” Although acknowledging that the cuts are necessary, she said she could not endorse them “when it is only about that,” she added before the vote took place.
Meanwhile, fiscal board Chairman José Carrión indicated that in the process of creating the fiscal plans, “there has not been unanimity on everything” among the members of the body.
“Ana simply could not vote in favor,” the Carrión said in Univision’s “Jugando Pelota Dura” talk show after the meeting. He added that “this is the path to follow” and that “it is up to the government and the legislature to implement it,” in response to what the next step after the certification of the plans was.
For his part, Gov. Ricardo Rosselló reacted via Twitter.
“I invite the board to reflect; that it understands that the aspects of its plan, as far as public policy is concerned, will not be given passage. Let’s look for an executable and consensus alternative between the board and the Government. Only then, we do the best for Puerto Rico,” the governor said.
Carrión said his panel was prepared to go to court if the governor does not obey and implement the fiscal plans.
“We are ready to go to court, it’s not what we want, but we are ready,” Carrión said. “We ask the governor to reconsider his position and respect the federal law,” he added at the end of the meeting, which lasted nearly five hours.
“I don’t want anyone to be imprisoned. What we would be doing is enforcing a federal law,” Carrión said. “We’re going to defend the plan and we’re going to do it until the last consequences. What tools do we have? Well, the budget [of the government of Puerto Rico]. The ones who determine the country’s budget are the board.”
The chairman further warned that “the fiscal plan has economic projections as a result of many reforms, among them the labor reform. If these reforms do not materialize, we will have to take that money out of the budget,” referring to an available mechanism for the board amid the governor’s refusal to execute the fiscal plan.
“Unfortunately, this is what a bankruptcy costs,” Carrión said when asked about the salaries of board Executive Director Natalie Jaresko and Prepa Executive Director Walter Higgins while austerity measures are proposed for the island.
“Only with bold structural reforms, reinvestment in the people of Puerto Rico, and strong fiscal measures can Puerto Rico avoid ongoing deterioration of its economy and ensure the fiscal ability to provide services to the residents and businesses of the Island,” Carrión said in a release issued after the meeting.