Puerto Rico Public Safety Dept. warns it won’t be able to cover payroll in March
SAN JUAN – Puerto Rico Public Safety Secretary Héctor Pesquera warned on Wednesday that the department could run out of funds to cover the payroll of its seven agencies as a result of the $38 million cut contained in the budget certified by the island’s fiscal board, which must be implemented following bankruptcy Judge Laura Taylor Swain’s decision.
“Well, I can run them [the agencies], but with some brutal cuts…there is nowhere to cut and if I cannot recruit personnel…in fact, I would have to remove [personnel] because I don’t have enough for the payroll. There will come a time in the fiscal year, by March of next year, when there won’t be enough for payroll,” Pesquera said in a WKAQ radio interview Wednesday.
Gov. Ricardo Rosselló said Tuesday that he will not abide by the federal judge’s decision to eliminate the public-employee Christmas bonus or their dismissal, as is contemplated in the budget and fiscal plan approved by the board. Judge Swain dismissed a challenge over the budget presented by the governor along with Senate President Thomas Rivera Schatz and House Speaker Carlos “Johnny” Méndez, all of whom sought to have the budget passed in the Legislative Assembly be approved instead of the one certified by the board.
“The problem is that the cuts they [the fiscal baord] made, they did at the payroll level. So, of course, the payroll is the highest percentage in the budget of all agencies, but it is the most indispensable for me to be able to operate. The police, according to the study that was ordered by the Police Reform, is missing more than 2,000 [officers]. There hasn’t been an academy [training school for police recruits] for three years and they are going to take away $38 million from me. Hello? Someone come and explain to me that math and/or logic behind this. With pleasure, let them sit down with me and explain it to me,” Pesquera said.
He added that he would then have to resort to the government’s chief financial officer, Raúl Maldonado, and the Office of Management and Budget to let the fiscal board know that the cuts make the operation of the agencies that make up the Public Safety Department umbrella impossible.
“I’m sure they will help me as they will help other agencies, but I have to watch over my seven agencies,” he said.