Víctor Suárez asks Rosselló transition team to quit playing politics
SAN JUAN – The secretary of State and chairman of the outgoing Government Transition Committee, Víctor Suárez, called on Gov.-elect Ricardo Rosselló’s transition team to focus on the information shed in the transition hearings and quit the “cheap politics.”
“Political campaigning has ended. They are representing an elected government not a political party, and we are calling on them to behave. We’ve been talking about the government’s difficulty for more than two years. The decisions that need to be made in the coming weeks and months are important. This administration will provide them with all the information so they can make their decisions.
“We are more than willing to collaborate, but the responsibility is for them to [study the information] and make decisions because, in February, the stay on litigation ends and $1.3 billion in debt service payments are due, and if they don’t decide to restructure the debt, they are going to have problems. The questioning in bad faith approach is cheap politics. We are presenting the numbers and we won’t hide information,” Suárez said during a press conference at the State Department, where the transition hearings began Monday.
Suárez reiterated that the administration of García Padilla “has been saying there is no money for two years” and that the reaction of the governor-elect’s transition committee is surprising because it seems as if they hadn’t been aware of this.
“The documents that were provided to the fiscal oversight board are published and the decisions we made to have police on the streets, teachers in schools and nurses in hospitals are clear. This administration didn’t have the restructuring mechanism, and they, thanks to Promesa [Puerto Rico Oversight, Management and Economic Stability Act], have the tool with Title III of Promesa,” he said.
Does the administration stand firm with Gov. Alejandro García Padilla’s stance that he won’t submit a new fiscal plan to the oversight board, Caribbean Business asked.
“The fiscal plan we presented included the proposed consolidation of 48 agencies, which no one has said, included continuing the consolidation of schools as has already been done with 160 schools, includes public-private partnerships for at least [the] Ports, Highway, Maritime and Public Transportation [authorities], and included a government payroll reduction based on attrition. The plan also included federal healthcare funds continuing as they are now received and maintaining Act 154, which is the 4% on foreign corporations. The fiscal oversight board said that this was insufficient and to not count on the current healthcare fund allocation,” Suárez said.
The secretary stressed that García Padilla’s fiscal adjustment plan didn’t include any pension, healthcare, job or University of Puerto Rico cuts.
“The governor-elect and the board have to express themselves regarding what path they are going to take. We, as a principle, aren’t going to touch those who are vulnerable. The alternative they have is the restructuring of the debt in a wide-ranging manner. It’s up to the incoming governor to decide whether to lay off employees. That’s the answer they have to provide, and the country should ask them to express themselves,” Suárez added.
A Puerto Rico government pensioner, Suárez said, receives $1,100 a month, and if there were cuts to the retirement system those people would receive from $600 to $700 a month.
“We believe the fiscal plan we presented is appropriate taking into consideration the political relationship that we have had consistent federal contributions. The problems we have here are serious, and while we spend time politicking we will have problems. My suggestion is we are available to provide the information to them. From the moment restructuring began to be talked about, it was made public and the governor went to the New York Times and said it,” Suárez said.