Senator proposes stopping Puerto Rico fiscal board funding
SAN JUAN — Puerto Rican Independence Party (PIP) minority Sen. Juan Dalmau presented Monday a resolution to order Treasury Secretary Raúl Maldonado to stop disbursements to the Financial Oversight & Management Board established by the Promesa federal law.
Joint Senate Resolution 215 defines as disbursements the “salaries, operational expenses, [and] contracting of services” that the entity in charge of overseeing the island’s finances incurs in the current and next two fiscal years.
Dalmau argued that his proposal comes about as a result of complaints his party has made since the enactment of Promesa nearly two years ago, which gained strength with executive and legislative branch claims of fiscal board “abuses.”
“What I’m appealing to is we move from words to action. Words without action are an abominable tease. It is not enough to talk and criticize because that is the same as a ‘letter to the reader,'” the lawmaker told reporters.
The proposal’s explanatory note says the fiscal board’s budget amounts to $60 million for fiscal year 2018, which ends June 30, and requests $80 million for the following year.
“This pattern of misuse of funds, without any benefit for the people, is unacceptable in any country, but especially offensive to a bankrupt system,” reads the resolution, which also criticizes the $625,000 salary of board Executive Director Natalie Jaresko.
As a joint resolution, the measure must be approved by the both the House and Senate and requires the signature of Gov. Ricardo Rosselló for enactment.
“If it is truly abusive [the fiscal board]; if it truly operates against the people of Puerto Rico, how is it possible that we accept to pay for and finance those abuses against ourselves? Because that [the budget for the board] is paid by the people of Puerto Rico,” Dalmau said.
On Monday, Senate President Thomas Rivera Schatz again characterized the fiscal board as having “dictatorial ambitions” and said “it hasn’t solved a single problem” since it was established.
“[The fiscal board] demands a fiscal discipline from us that they don’t demand [from] themselves; they file their fiscal and ethical reports late. What’s worse, there are already signs of conflicts of interest against board members. Then they want, nothing more and nothing less than a $20 million increase to their budget,” he said.
The legislature’s consolidated budget for fiscal 2018 amounts to a little more than $84 million, which represents a more than $24 million reduction compared with last fiscal year’s budget of $109 million. More than $47 million in special allocations are added to the current budget.