Puerto Rico fiscal board mulling public employee furlough for September
SAN JUAN – The chairman of the Puerto Rico fiscal oversight board, José Carrión, said Saturday that the governing body would seek to implement the public employee working hour reduction measure starting Sept. 1, and not July 1 as originally scheduled.
To media questions about when the furlough would begin, Carrión responded, “First of September,” adding that it would be “prudent to prepare our people for that possibility.”
According to what the board approved in its March 13 meeting, the furlough program would go into effect July 1, unless the government secures a $200 million cash reserve and demonstrates government spending cuts as established under its fiscal plan. Were the government to convince the board that it is not necessary to implement the measures starting July 1, these would be postponed until Sept. 1, by which time the board would reevaluate the situation.
Calling the furlough’s implementation a “tragedy,” Carrión stated that it was a pre-agreed to measure in the certified fiscal plan and not a “recommendation” to the government of Puerto Rico.
“Regarding the working days, the situation is as follows…. In the plan certified on March 13, we had agreed with the government that there were two [conditions]: One was to [achieve having a] $200 million [reserve] and the other was about $440 million in right-sizing initiatives, for which we would have to pass judgment on. This was not a recommendation, this was already agreed in the fiscal plan,” Carrión said after participating in the Chamber of Commerce’s annual convention in Fajardo.
In a letter to the board sent Thursday, Gov. Ricardo Rosselló said Promesa allows the government to reject “unsound” recommendations, in justifying its opposition to the implementation of the furlough program and the elimination of the Christmas bonus.
“If the government doesn’t want to comply after we analyze the budget and decide that we indeed need to implement a limited reduction in working hours, then that will be an issue for lawyers and we will have to clarify the issue in court,” the chairman warned on Saturday.
On Friday, the governor also said the administration would consider going to court to avoid the implementation of the spending control measures.