Wednesday, February 8, 2023

Puerto Rico gov’t discusses furlough alternatives with fiscal board

By on August 15, 2017

SAN JUAN – Gov. Ricardo Rosselló confirmed Tuesday that he continues discussions with members and advisers of the fiscal control board about the additional alternatives that could be implemented to reduce public spending without having to resort to implementing a two-day furlough.

However, the governor said there is no discussion with the fiscal entity created by the Promesa law regarding how the furlough program would apply nor to which workers. Rosselló said his administration completely ruled out that alternative, which the board approved at its ninth public meeting, even if the the board threatens to go to court to enforce its implementation.

Gov. Ricardo Rosselló, center, said his administration is not discussing how a furlough would be implemented because it completely ruled out that possibility due to its economic impact and temporary nature. (Courtesy)

“There is no negotiation to establish the reduction of working hours. There is none. What there is is a conversation to demonstrate the implementation and execution of the fiscal plan,” the governor declared at a press conference in which he announced the use of the hit song “Despacito” and singer Luis Fonsi to promote Puerto Rico as a tourism destination.

“Public servants can rest assured we are working on all the alternatives to guarantee a strategy that produces a new government, that we can carry out an initiative that is permanent. By design, the furlough is not permanent, it is a temporary reduction and has a negative effect on the economy,” he added.

Anti-furlough bill passed in Puerto Rico Legislature

The governor says the impact of cutting two work days a month starting in September would be $350 million.

Among the “permanent” strategies the government is analyzing and in the process of implementing are the having government duties be performed by other entities, the mobilization of employees and the voluntary transition program.

“If 200 people take the voluntary transition, for the fiscal year 2020, 2021, 2022 and 2023, that continues to reflect as savings, versus cutting working days…. We will be doing everything we have to do so Puerto Rico can pull itself out of this crisis,” Rosselló said.

He added that his administration will collaborate with the fiscal board “as we have done since day one,” but stating “that there are public policy positions in which the power falls upon the government.”

Regarding a possible change of position by the board with respect to the decision to require the furlough program, the governor referred the question to the panel itself. However, he stressed that his government has shown “goodwill” and “transparency has never existed before,” with the creation of “data rooms” with constant information for the board, so it can learn about the implementation of the austerity measures.

Puerto Rico governor says he will fight furlough’s implementation to the end

Hike to water not electric bill

During the press conference, the governor also confirmed that the Puerto Rico Water and Sewer Authority’s fiscal plan includes an increase to the water bill.
However, in the case of the Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority, although an increase to the electricity bill was recommended, the fiscal plan only considers raising the cost to 21 cents per kilowatt-hour. To reach that cost, “it would imply the creation of new infrastructure, new energy models, more effective transmission and, certainly, a system that could be more predictable,” the governor said.

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