Rosselló to present budget before Puerto Rico Legislature
SAN JUAN – Puerto Rico Gov. Ricardo Rosselló will present the commonwealth government’s budget for fiscal year 2018, which begins July 1, before the Legislature at 5 p.m. Wednesday.
La Fortaleza made the announcement Monday afternoon, only hours after the governor had said at a press conference that he was still waiting for the island’s fiscal control board’s green light to present the government’s spending plan to the Legislature.
House Speaker Carlos “Johnny” Méndez said Tuesday that both legislative chambers will hold joint hearings as part of the budget’s evaluation process. He added that the document complies with the fiscal plan certified by Promesa’s board.
“We have until June 25 to approve measures; we hope to approve the budget sooner, but we won’t be wearing a straightjacket,” Méndez stated after the legislative leaders’ weekly meeting with the governor at La Fortaleza.
“We are going to work with the governor’s budget,” said Senate President Thomas Rivera Schatz, who added that he works “for the Puerto Rican people, and not the [Promesa’s fiscal] board.”
On May 8, the board requested that the government of Puerto Rico deliver a new version of its budget by May 23. According to the Rosselló administration, it complied with the latest deadline. The fiscal board has until Wednesday to either approve what the executive branch delivered or present its own version of a “compliant budget.”
As of this writing, the board had yet to reply to a Caribbean Business’ written request asking whether it has already approved a budget, so that Gov. Rosselló could present it to island lawmakers.
During his budget message in the House of Representatives, the executive is expected to finally shed light over Puerto Rico’s first budget under the framework of the federal Promesa law, nearly a month after first delivering its first version to the board on April 30.
Lawmakers would have little room to make changes to the budget that the administration presents Wednesday. Moreover, Gov. Rosselló has recently pointed to a transition process, zero-based budgeting method and the parameters established by Promesa as new elements in the preparation of the government’s spending plan.
The governor has also warned that the budget could be subject to claims in “different forums,” referring to the debt-restructuring process underway in federal court between the government and its creditors.
What’s more, it is still unknown when the government will make public the most recent liquidity projections and the timeline to implement the adjustments established in the commonwealth’s certified fiscal plan. Both documents were also submitted to the board on April 30.
Since then, neither the Rosselló administration nor the fiscal board have disclosed the documents, calling them confidential “working documents.”