Saturday, May 25, 2019

Puerto Rico gov’t publishes summary of budget submitted to fiscal board

By on April 10, 2019

Recommends $769 million more than for the current $8.76 billion

San Juan’s cruiseship and cargo ports three days after Hurricane María, Sept. 24, 2017. (CB photo)

SAN JUAN – Puerto Rico Gov. Ricardo Rosselló submitted Monday for the fiscal oversight board’s consideration a General Fund-use budget for fiscal year 2020 of $9.53 billion, or $769 million more than the current $8.76 billion budget.

The document published on the Fiscal Agency and Financial Advisory Authority’s (Aafaf by its Spanish acronym) website is a summary of what was presented to the fiscal board but not the detailed document required by the Constitution of Puerto Rico.

Last year, Senate Minority Leader Eduardo Bhatia filed a claim in court in which he argued successfully that under the constitutional right of access to public information the government has the obligation to publish the budget submitted by the governor to the fiscal board.

The suggested budget for the Department of Education–the government’s largest agency–would increase 15.4% with a proposed $2.86 billion, or $382 million more than for the current fiscal year.

The Public-Private Partnerships Authority would receive nearly twice what is currently available. The government has recommended $13.6 million, an increase of $6.7 million from its current $6.5 million. The Health Department would also see an increase, of $28.8 million over its current $293 million. However, the Comprehensive Cancer Center would see its budget cut by 47%, to $ 11.6 million, for fiscal 2020.

The Police Bureau, meanwhile, would get $155 million more, thus spending could reach $1 billion. Similarly, the Bureau of Forensic Sciences, an entity that has been in under scrutiny for its grave delays in processing bodies, would see an increase of only $5 million, for a total $20.2 million.

The budget for the Institute of Culture would increase by $1.7 million, to $15.4 million for the next fiscal year. The entity’s current budget is of $13.7 million.

One of the most affected government-owned entities is the University of Puerto Rico, for which $86 million was proposed cut, or 13.32% less than its current General Fund allowance of $645 million.

The Model Forest Office, which oversaw 379,000 protected acres before being merged into the Department of Natural and Environmental Resources, would not have a budget for fiscal 2020, which means it would be eliminated, as would the Higher Education Council and the Public Buildings Authority.

However, the Office of the Inspector General, a newly created entity, was listed with a proposed $5.3 million for 2020. The Traffic Safety Commission would get a 65% cut and end up with a $279,000 budget. The Economic Development and Commerce Department would also be cut, by 47%, to $1.1 million despite the importance economic matters have on the island.

The recommended budget was submitted to the fiscal board pursuant to the federal Puerto Rico Oversight, Management, and Economic Stability Act (Promesa), which stipulates that the panel it established must determine whether the proposed budget is in accordance with the fiscal plan the board certifies. The panel would also have its budget cut 1%, or $64 million less than it has available today.

See the proposed budget here (in Spanish).

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