Puerto Rico Senate passes resolution to stop funding fiscal board
SAN JUAN – With the endorsement of all caucuses, the Puerto Rico Senate passed Wednesday a resolution authored by Puerto Rican Independence Party (PIP) spokesman Juan Dalmau, to stop the disbursement of funds to the island’s fiscal oversight board.
In an unexpected move, the upper chamber addressed Senate Joint Resolution 215 a few minutes before a legislative conference was held with Gov. Ricardo Rosselló at the Capitol.
“This measure was filed on April 2 of the current [year] in order to respond in a dignified and firm manner to what has been a caravan of abuse, disparagement and exploitation by the fiscal control board with respect to the people of Puerto Rico,” Dalmau declared.
The pro-independence senator added that the entity in charge of the island’s finances proposes austerity and “dismantling the system,” and that it acts “as if they did not have a belt to tighten,” adding, “This measure is for the government to respond.”
According to the measure, “The Secretary of the Treasury is ordered to, during the current fiscal year, and the two subsequent fiscal years, not carry out disbursements for salary payments, operational expenses and/or hiring of services…” to the fiscal board.
New Progressive Party (NPP) Majority Leader Carmelo Ríos said that, despite having previously expressed that the measure was not a viable option, the Senate’s position changed because “we are ready,” adding, “A clash between the government and the board is inevitable. Today is the first step.”
Ríos further said: “The fiscal control board costs more than the House and the Senate combined. In fact, they cost more [money] and don’t produce anything…. If Congress believes the board is so necessary, let them pay for it.”
Meanwhile, NPP Sen. Migdalia Padilla spoke of the need for the Senate, the House and La Fortaleza, the governor’s workplace, to form a common front to fight the fiscal board.
“Once again, the Senate of Puerto Rico says enough is enough to the abuses of the fiscal control board,” she stressed, “In order to be able to address this, there must be a commitment from all parties: Senate, House and the executive [branch].”
Senate President Thomas Rivera Schatz said that the senators’ responsibility does not depend on the opinion or action of others. He added that, were it not to become law, those who supported the measure in the Senate will be able to “look Puerto Ricans in the eye” certain that they defended their interests.
“Whether Senate Joint Resolution 215 becomes law or not, that remains to be seen, but that is not the cardinal, what’s cardinal is the message we want to send from here, so that they clearly understand we don’t give in and that we respond to the people who elected us, and that we defend Puerto Rican citizens,” he said.
As a joint resolution, the measure would need to be passed by the House and approved by the governor, who said Tuesday he was willing to do whatever was necessary when disagreeing with the federally established fiscal board.
“Does the governor [dare] sign this?” Popular Democratic Party Sen. Cirilo Tirado questioned. “If the [governor] has truly has will, let him start today and stop the disbursements to the fiscal control board and not acknowledge it any power in Puerto Rico,” he concluded.
The resolution was approved in a roll-call vote. The NPP and PDP delegations joined as co-authors of the measure, which was passed unanimously.