‘This is going to get tougher,’ Puerto Rico Senate president says
SAN JUAN – Puerto Rico Senate President Thomas Rivera Schatz warned on Wednesday that the situation on the island will worsen due to the measures proposed in the fiscal plan that was certified by the fiscal oversight board.
In a radio interview (WKAQ), the lawmaker said matters will end up “in the courts, definitely. At the polls…. This is going to get tougher, tougher than it already is.”
Replying to questions about what the government will do to fight the fiscal board’s plan, Rivera Schatz said, “what we have been doing. For example, the Senate of Puerto Rico has not approved the legislation that they have intended. The Senate has taken them to court. The Senate, with other sectors, including the support of the governor, we have been in international forums…. We have been in all the various and legitimate forums using the correct and adequate mechanisms to denounce and challenge the actions of the Board.”
On Tuesday, the board certified a fiscal plan for the government, which among other proposals, includes the elimination of the Christmas bonus, as well as pension cuts. It also certified a fiscal plan for the University of Puerto Rico (UPR) that recommends raising tuition and other fees, as well as the consolidation of campuses and cutting pensions. The document also establishes that there will be a surplus of $16 billion by 2023 as a result of the federal funds approved for reconstruction after Hurricane Maria.
Rivera Schatz stressed that the governor, Ricardo Rosselló, said he will pay the year-end bonus to public employees.
“What he has to do when the day arrives is make the payment and the Board has to do what it has to do,” he said.
Regarding pension cuts, the Senate president reiterated that the government remains opposed and that it has been looking for options to avoid it.
“That will be another confrontation with the fiscal control board, which we have to support because of our colonial condition,” he said.
Reacting to board Executive Director Natalie Jaresko, who said there is no political will to implement the needed changes, Rivera Schatz said, “We approved a smaller budget than what they suggested, balanced using the numbers they certified and then they reject it and approve a larger budget. What political will is Ms. Jaresko talking about?”
He called board member Ana Matosantos’s disagreement with the fiscal plan, despite having been approved by the panel, a contradiction.
“It’s nothing new. The Puerto Rican people should not be surprised by the pretensions of the board of condemning the Puerto Rican people to poverty, of limiting or restricting their opportunities to develop in economic and social terms. That’s not new news. That has been the case since the beginning,” the lawmaker said, adding that the government’s duty is to “resist and fight” the board and “make sure that the elected government of Puerto Rico does” what it is supposed to.