Puerto Rico governor says he will fight furlough’s implementation to the end
SAN JUAN – Gov. Ricardo Rosselló said Tuesday he was prepared to prevent the fiscal control board from imposing a public employee furlough starting September, as approved by the entity at its ninth public meeting last week.
The governor also expressed his opposition to the fiscal board appointing a central Treasury manager, which he considered to be “unreasonable” and believes would be in violation of the Promesa law provisions related to the board’s powers.
“I am sure my entire cabinet and all the people of Puerto Rico will be in the disposition that the Government of Puerto Rico be the government elected by the people and that we can implement public policy. Whatever the consequences are, we are going to assume them. Would that include going to jail? Yes, it includes it,” Rosselló said at a press conference in La Fortaleza.
The government’s position is that the furlough is a “recommendation” and is not part of the fiscal plan certified by the board. The fiscal board, however, maintains the furlough program was one of the conditions for the fiscal plan to be certified and thus is an integral part of the document.
Even though the government claims to have enough liquidity to avoid the furlough, the board claims it has failed to present plans to implement the cuts included in the fiscal plan. The matter will be decided in court, since the board has already stated its intention to take the matter to a judge and the government said it would defend itself.
“We have fulfilled in recent months structural reforms that have never been done…exceeding expectations. A furlough is still trying to be implemented via a unilateral mechanism. That is simply not acceptable and I will not accept it,” reiterated the governor, who argues that the board only demonstrates Puerto Rico’s colonial status.
The two workdays a month furlough would affect all government workers, except police, fiscal board Chairman José Carrión said.
Opposition to Treasury post
The governor is also opposing the imposition of any kind of manager in the island’s Treasury Department, a matter that was also discussed at the board’s Friday meeting. The fiscal panel’s executive director, Natalie Jaresko, was given 15 days to present recommendations as to whether the post should be appointed for the commonwealth.
The appointment would come about only if the board determines that additional mechanisms are required for the establishment of reports and controls on liquidity projections for compliance with the certified fiscal plan.
For Rosselló, the government has been in compliance with the parameters, so “unilaterally” imposing a Treasury manager is against what Promesa says in terms of the board being able to “make recommendations” and “establish the fiscal parameters, but not to determine public policy.”
“To have a person determine what is disbursed, where it is disbursed, is essentially to take control of public policy … This does not have much weight, we had not heard it before, nor discussed it before the board meeting, and therefore I do not see any reason for this to be implemented,” the governor said.
“I appeal to reason. When a fault is found, then identify it and we will work on it, with pleasure. But when it is something unreasonable, when it is something that goes against the evidence we are seeing right now, there is simply no reason for it.”