Thomas Rivera Schatz lashes out against oversight board
SAN JUAN – Senate President Thomas Rivera Schatz warned Wednesday that the fiscal control board will have to report to Congress on what it does with the nearly $3 million it receives monthly from the Puerto Rican government and asked its members Wednesday to not be the U.S.’s servants.
“[The Board] is going to have to answer to Congress and report what they have done. Puerto Rico’s government can also participate [in Congress] and make proposals,” Rivera Schatz said.
Rivera Schatz also reiterated his opposition to the fiscal board after an appointments hearing.
At the conclusion of a hearing on the appointments of the secretaries of Labor, Carlos Saavedra; Economic Development, Manuel Laboy; and Fire Department-designate Alberto Cruz, the Senate’s president attacked the board for its cost to the government and because it undermines the economic development of Puerto Rico.
“To the Puerto Ricans on the board, don’t be the colony’s lackeys. To the Puerto Ricans who are on the board, which I warned many months ago that no Puerto Rican who loves Puerto Rico should belong to the board, don’t be the United States government’s lackey. I have always opposed the board. The Puerto Ricans who are there [on the board], put Puerto Rico first, let them understand that they are Puerto Ricans first,” Rivera Schatz said.
During the confirmation hearing, the Economic Development secretary-designate conceded to questions from the Senate president that the fiscal board may hinder the island’s economic development.
Laboy said the fiscal board may interfere with foreign and local investors’ decisions, and added that he keeps the board informed of the steps the government is taking to straighten out its finances.
“[The Board] costs between $2 million and $3 million a month,” Laboy added.
“Is there an outraged economist with that cost, have you seen any with tears coming out of their eyes for what the board costs,” Rivera Schatz asked the secretary-designate.
Rivera Schatz expressed that he is seriously concerned with the fiscal board expressions that could have resonance in Congress, because these will eventually affect economic activity in Puerto Rico.
“An investor may decide whether to come to Puerto Rico depending on what the fiscal control board says about Puerto Rico, whether it will make cuts and Puerto Rico won’t have the needed infrastructure work,” the Senate leader said.
Clear path toward confirmation
Rivera Schatz predicted that the appointments for the heads of the Labor, Economic Development and Fire departments could be considered this Saturday during the session.
“If the reports are ready, yes [the appointments will be addressed Saturday]. Honestly, I know the three gentlemen and I think they are excellent resources,” he said.
As part of the hearing on the Labor secretary-designate, he reiterated that labor reform will protect existing jobs and open opportunity for new businesses to be established in Puerto Rico and the creation of new jobs.
“The labor reform — in addition to addressing the complexity of labor laws that don’t correspond to the reality of Puerto Rico today — protected those currently working and created uniform norms defining contracts. The Single Employer is a tool to protect public employees and the rights of collective-bargaining agreements are maintained,” Saavedra said.
The Fire chief designee said he currently has 340 vacant positions and that could be filled by the Single Employer after training the new staff.