Puerto Rico gov calls fiscal board request for more power ‘unacceptable’
SAN JUAN – Inconceivable, unacceptable, at a loss for words. That was some of the language Puerto Rico Gov. Ricardo Rosselló Nevares used to describe the most recent moves by the island’s fiscal control board.
“Going to Congress and on two occasions telling them to condition the funds for the recovery of Puerto Rico on the determination that the board have more powers…is simply inconceivable,” the governor said Thursday afternoon during a press conference in La Fortaleza.
In a congressional oversight hearing Tuesday, the executive director of the fiscal board, Natalie Jaresko, told the U.S. House Natural Resources Committee that her panel would welcome any legislative action that reaffirms and clarifies its powers under the Promesa federal law. She added that it would help avoid costly litigation against the Government of Puerto Rico whenever there are differences of opinion and interpretation about what the board can or cannot do.
For his part, Rosselló Nevares recognizes that the entity has “its role and powers,” particularly in the budget process, access to markets and representation of the government in bankruptcy cases and before its creditors.
“From that to coming to administrate the people of Puerto Rico simply goes beyond its powers, is unacceptable and the premise is insulting,” said the governor, who on Tuesday will attend a second House hearing on Puerto Rico.
Although not wanting to reveal what he will request during his appearance with regard to the board’s proposals, Rosselló Nevares stressed that Congress should not make way to changes in favor of the board.
“Of course there should be no change here,” the governor said at the conclusion of the press conference.
During last Tuesday’s hearing, Jaresko also emphasized the importance of clarifying what role the board will play in the oversight and management of federal funds that reach the island for the recovery and reconstruction of infrastructure after Hurricane María.
The executive director said Puerto Rico will need $13 billion to $21 billion in additional liquidity until the summer of 2019. Given this scenario, the board has already proposed “legislative language” that would grant it the power to control any disbursement of federal funds made available for the government’s liquidity. The board assured that would be the way to guarantee that federal funds are used for María-related matters.
“To request more powers and, not only that, to request them linking it to funds for Puerto Rico…one is simply left at a loss for words,” the governor riposted Thursday.
Meanwhile, committee Chairman Rob Bishop (R-Utah) said Tuesday that the entity established by Promesa will not leave the island until the end of its tenure and added that Congress will seek to provide it with the tools needed to do its job going forward.
Both the board and the Rosselló Nevares administration are betting on Congress approving, sometime before the end of the year, a multimillion-dollar allocation of federal funds for the long-term recovery of Puerto Rico.