Puerto Rico House speaker: Retirees can’t survive cuts proposed by fiscal board
In column, asks Congress to intervene immediately
SAN JUAN — In a recent column, the speaker of Puerto Rico’s House of Representatives, Carlos “Johnny” Méndez, denounced cuts to the benefits of Puerto Rico government retirees that were requested by the island’s Financial, Oversight and Management Board (FOMB), which he said would affect more than 167,000 people.
In an opinion column published in the Washington, D.C.-based political news outlet The Hill, the legislative leader stressed that the Puerto Rico Oversight, Management and Economic Stability Act (Promesa) does not grant the board “a blank check…to bypass the limits, prohibitions and obligations imposed by the Act. The unelected members of the Board must not have the power to rule over U.S. citizens. Congress has to take a proactive stand; words only will not be enough.”
The speaker called on the members of Congress to intervene immediately to avoid the cuts proposed by the board.
“As the Speaker of the Puerto Rico’s House of Representatives, I urge the Congress to immediately intervene on behalf of the U.S. citizens living on the island and to put an end to the imposition of pension cuts. They are unnecessary and dangerous. Each member of Congress must recognize the possibility that this move by the FOMB will culminate in a humanitarian crisis not seen in any U.S. jurisdiction since the Independence War,” Méndez wrote.
The majority New Progressive Party lawmaker also alleged that Puerto Rico is treated unfairly by the board, arguing that unlike Britain, Ireland or Greece, which were forced to cut pensions less and for a shorter period than proposed by the island’s board, Puerto Rico “has the ability to pay for pension benefits at the current level without affecting” the budget.
In Puerto Rico, he said, the “cuts imposed by the Board will be deeper and permanent and our people cannot survive it.”
Méndez said the austerity measure will force thousands of pensioners to use other public benefits, such as the Nutritional Assistance Program, making the move more expensive for the Treasury.
“Furthermore, in three years the Board has not yet presented a credible economic development plan. It has not acted on the 2016 Congressional Task Force on Economic Growth in Puerto Rico recommendations of extending the federal work credit and to grant the island parity in Medicaid funds. The Board’s sole move so far have been imposing ever more profound budget cuts,” he said.