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Rosselló’s First Executive Orders

By on January 2, 2017

SAN JUAN—Five executive orders signed Monday by newly sworn Puerto Rico Governor Ricardo Rosselló Nevares include the declaration of a state of fiscal and infrastructure emergency, government-wide budget controls, and the acknowledgement of $7 billion in inherited deficit.

A sixth order seeks to increase the number of women holding senior positions in government.

Below is a look at the first official steps of public policy made by Rosselló Nevares mere moments after being sworn in as the new governor of Puerto Rico.

State of fiscal emergency

The first executive order signed by Governor Rosselló requires every agency to immediately reduce its operational expenses by 10% of its current budgets, without affecting essential services to citizens.

Government agencies should cut their spending on professional services by no less than 10% compared to what was incurred during fiscal year 2016, as well as reduce energy and water consumption.

In a move similar to Act 66, implemented by the outgoing administration, the order also freezes all vacancies, prohibits the creation of new posts and orders the elimination of 20% of all politically appointed positions. Public corporations are recommended to comply with the order.

The director of the Office of Management and Budget—with attorney José Iván Marrero being the official recently designated for this position—will have the power to make exceptions to the provisions of Executive Order 2017-001 and be responsible for its implementation and compliance alongside Fortaleza Chief of Staff William Villafañe, also an attorney.

Meanwhile, any legal director in the government, including those in public corporations, will have to be evaluated by Fortaleza’s main legal counsel, a position to which Alfonso Orona Amilivia was appointed. It also empowers the Secretary of Public Affairs , attorney Ramón Rosario Cortés , to pass judgment on any press officer in the government and establish a communications strategy.

All travel by officials or agency employees must be approved by the Fortaleza Chief of Staff.

Center for Federal Opportunities

The new administration has stated that Puerto Rico loses more than $1 billion in federal programs, while it ranks 49th among 51 US jurisdictions in terms of raising funds.

For that reason, Gov. Rosselló established the Federal Opportunities Center (COF by its Spanish initials), which will be attached to his office. The new entity will seek to offer assistance and “technical expertise” in obtaining federal funds throughout the entire Puerto Rican government as well as non-profit community organizations.

Any public entity will coordinate efforts to obtain federal funds—including those obtained competitively—from the COF. The governor will appoint the person who will oversee the new office.

Zero-Base Budget

Each department, agency, and instrumentality must begin to justify every dollar it intends to use, and from then on, set its budget for fiscal year 2018 beginning July 1. The practice of using prior allocations as the basis for establishing budgets from the Treasury Department would be a thing of the past.

With the implementation of this mechanism—which was part of Rosselló Nevares’ campaign promises— the incoming administration seeks to reduce government operating expenses by 10%.

State of emergency in infrastructure

An expedited process in the granting of permits and certifications will now be available for infrastructure projects in the areas of renewable energy, aqueducts and sewers, transportation, ports and solid waste, among others.

To lead the efforts, Rosselló created the Interagency Group of Critical Projects for the Infrastructure of the XXI Century, reporting to La Fortaleza. A total of 11 representatives from different public entities will comprise the group.

An executive committee that consists of three of the members will be responsible in carrying out the executive order, which includes working with the fiscal board of Promesa. Federal law includes several provisions and processes related to the completion of critical infrastructure projects on the island.

Increase the presence of women in management positions

Executive Order 2017-006 establishes as public policy “to increase the participation of women in management positions” within the government. Although the document is named “guarantee equal pay for equal work” and recognizes situations of wage inequality against women in Puerto Rico, the order only requires the agencies “to establish measures in the recruitment of [politically appointed] positions that are consistent with the public policy established in this Executive Order.”

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