Second meeting with Puerto Rico gov gives fiscal board ‘confidence’
Chairman says he feels panel ‘will be able to effectively collaborate with the Government’
SAN JUAN – Members of Puerto Rico’s Financial Oversight and Management Board met Thursday with Gov. Wanda Vázquez Garced to discuss various fiscal topics.
Vázquez met with the board’s chairman, José Carrión; executive director, Natalie Jaresko; and several members. They discussed issues such as Act 29, the public debt’s restructuring and the Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority (Prepa).
“There is an openness to talk and look for an alternative that meets the need for fiscal responsibility and the concern of the governor,” Carrión replied to questions from the press.
In a ruling Thursday, U.S. District Judge Laura Taylor Swain, who oversees the in-court proceedings to restructure the island’s debt, allowed the board to continue demanding that municipalities pay into the Health Insurance Administration (ASES by its Spanish acronym) and the pay-as-you-go pension system.
Former Gov. Ricardo Rosselló had signed Act 29 for the central government to cover those payments, reducing municipalities’ financial burden, to the tune of nearly $320 million this fiscal year.
After meeting with Vázquez on Tuesday, Joe Román, the president of the Associated Mayors of Puerto Rico, which comprises the minority Popular Democratic Party’s (PDP) municipal heads, said the legislation “was created by both the Mayors Federation and the Mayors Association [, and] the Financial Oversight and Management Board agrees with one part of Act 29 but they don’t agree with the health insurance part and this matter is in court.”
Loíza Mayor Julia Nazario said the governor would seek, along with all the mayors, options to pitch the board.
“The commitment is that we will be with [Vázquez], bringing options because she clearly let us know that the law has little chance of sustaining itself,” Nazario said.
Despite that, Román warned that the mayors gave Vázquez “one month to present the results,” adding, “We focused on Act 29 [in the meeting with the governor] because it’s the sustenance of the municipal governments. It’s important that it is addressed immediately and that this uncertainty does not continue…about what will happen with the municipal government funds…. This way, it will bring calm and stability to the citizenry, who are the ones that receive the essential services directly.”
“In continuing our working relationship with Governor Wanda Vázquez Garced, today we met to discuss items of our ongoing fiscal agenda. We are pleased to have had this, our second meeting with her, as it allows us to continue moving forward towards the objectives set forth in PROMESA [Puerto Rico Oversight, Management, and Economic Stability Act] to achieve financial stability, fiscal responsibility and renewed access to financial markets for the benefit of the people of Puerto Rico. Today’s meeting has given us confidence that we will be able to effectively collaborate with the Government of Puerto Rico in the execution of our mandate under PROMESA,” Chairman José Carrión said in a statement after the meeting.
Thursday’s meeting was also attended by the newly appointed ex officio member of the board, Elí Díaz-Atienza, as well as Omar Marrero, the executive director of Puerto Rico’s Fiscal Agency and Financial Advisory Authority, among other officials.
—CB’s María Miranda and CyberNews contributed to this report.