Puerto Rico governor remains committed to county system
Says mechanism being worked on, proposals will be sent to legislature
SAN JUAN — The proposal to create a county-like system that would consolidate certain government services at a regional level is still being worked on, Puerto Rico Gov. Ricardo Rosselló said Wednesday.
“The process that would create the counties is one that takes time,” Rosselló said. “To be able to carry it out and for the process to not only be about the imposition of an idea or of a measure, we have held various dialog sessions about the different public policy issues.”
The governor said that to be able to establish a county system, several elements need to be determined, such as defining municipal autonomy, identifying revenue sources and establishing the geographical distribution, as well as determining which services will be offered at the county and municipal levels, including those provided by the central government but that would be transferred to the counties.
“And what the political structure will be, meaning how we are going to have leadership with accountability…instead of being a mere appointment. For that, we have been exploring a number of initiatives. There are models in which an administrator is designated directly by the people’s vote or there are models that establish a council, in which case those councils select their executive director.”
Rosselló said he is committed to moving the county system forward by “taking concrete steps” this year.
“What those steps will be, well that will depend on this discussions we are having,” the governor said when asked by Caribbean Business about his proposal. “I reiterate that I began this conversation although I know many perhaps suggested that I didn’t do it, because I can see, looking ahead, the fiscal problem many municipalities are going to have. This effort is not going to be something just against the municipalities; on the contrary, it’s a complete government reform in which the central government services will be offered by the counties. According to our assessments, more services offered by the central government would be offered by the counties.”
He said the first steps have been taken and acknowledged that the matter was complex.
“And I hope that within the next year, we will be able to have various measures that will start building toward the creation of those regions and avoid a collapse at some of the municipalities because of the savings achieved and benefits obtained for the citizenry,” he added.
The governor also signed Executive Order 032-2019 Wednesday to create the Puerto Rico Government Civic Innovation Program, aimed at seeking high-impact solutions that contribute to the transformation of government processes through technology and innovation.
The program is ascribed to the Puerto Rico Innovation and Technology Services (PRITS) Office in Hato Rey.