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Puerto Rico Legislature asks fiscal board to justify budget

By on June 2, 2017

SAN JUAN – Puerto Rico House Speaker Carlos “Johnny” Méndez and House Treasury Committee Chairman Antonio “Tony” Soto said Friday that the Financial Oversight & Management Board, as well as every government entity and agency that receives allocations from the general fund, must justify its budget allocation for fiscal year 2018 at the joint public hearings on the budget, which begin next week.

Amid a dispute over whether the fiscal board certified the budget Gov. Ricardo Rosselló presented to the Legislature Wednesday, Soto clarified that the board is not responsible of approving the spending and revenue document. For the representative, the board merely “certifies” the budget, but the Legislature approves it, as established in the certified fiscal plan’s guidelines.

House Speaker Carlos “Johnny” Méndez and House Treasury Committee Chairman Antonio “Tony” Soto visited a nonprofit that offers services to women who are HIV-positive, which receives legislative funding. (Cindy Burgos/CB)

However, pursuant to Section 202 of the federal Promesa law, the fiscal control board has the power to submit a budget to the Legislature and the government and that it be considered approved in the event that neither the executive and legislative branches aren’t able to approve one that meets the requirements of the fiscal plan before June 30.

The board, which also sets the dates to present the document, gave the Legislature until June 7 to present the “adopted” budget, after evaluating the governor’s.

“There is a $60 million budget allocated to the board within the budget that was presented for our consideration. They, just like any other agency, will have to justify each spending item. If $60 million is enough for its operations and they justify the expense, then they shall have it. If the fiscal oversight board doesn’t justify the $60 million and only needs $50 [million], then it will be adjusted,” Soto said during a press conference.

The House Treasury Committee chairman explained that the lower chamber will use the zero-based method to evaluate the governor’s budget for every public agency. Soto and Méndez were in Guaynabo’s Amelia neighborhood visiting Hogar Ayuda El Refugio, which provides services to women and mothers who are HIV-positive. This nonprofit is one of many that receive legislative funding, and Méndez said they will continue their visits to evaluate its services.

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