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We’re not giving in on public policy matters, Puerto Rico gov says after board certifies fiscal plans

By on April 20, 2018

En conferencia de prensa tras la reunión que sostuvo la Junta de Supervisión Fiscal.

Posted by Ricardo Rossello on Thursday, April 19, 2018

SAN JUAN – After the Puerto Rico fiscal oversight board’s 12th public meeting, held Thursday, Gov. Ricardo Rosselló reaffirmed once again that his administration will not obey and implement the public policy measures the board certified by a majority vote.

Rosselló was referring to the reduction of private sector vacation and sick leave days by half, as well as the elimination of the statutory Christmas Bonus by 2019 and a controversial pension reform that would, on average, cut 10% of these.

“As we have always said, matters of fiscal nature in terms of what the number is, that is the responsibility of the oversight board, but the public policy of Puerto Rico is established by the government of Puerto Rico,” Rosselló said in a press conference in La Fortaleza.

Fiscal board establishes plans for Puerto Rico and its power and water utilities

On a whiteboard, similar to those found in many of the classrooms on the 283 schools the Education Department will close, the governor listed two main issues he will “not make way for,” public policy matters and pension cuts.

“We understand that pensions are proprietary rights under the current law in Puerto Rico. [The fiscal board] is affecting the most vulnerable sectors and in order to make a change to pensions, it would have to be carried out through the Legislature, and that is not going to happen,” Rosselló said.

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However, the governor’s list of matters on which the board and he agreed on was longer than that of their differences. Among the measures both sides favor are a new government model, the privatization of Prepa and education reform.

Rosselló urged the members of the board “to reflect” on the implications that a fiscal plan that in his opinion was impossible to implement would have for the island’s economy.

“We will not make way for a reduction of vacation and sick leave days, and we will not eliminate the Christmas Bonus. This is simple. That the people of Puerto Rico understand and know that all these changes, although the board can recommend them, they must go through the consideration of the Legislative Assembly, and obviously the governor would have to sign them into law,” Rosselló said.

Fiscal board Chairman José Carrión warned that his panel is prepared to go to court if Rosselló does not implement the fiscal plans.

“We’re ready to go to court; it’s not what we want, but we’re ready,” Carrión said. “What we’d be doing is enforcing a federal law. We’re going to defend the plan and we’re going to do it until the last consequences. What tools do we have? Well, the budget [of the government of Puerto Rico]. The ones who determine the country’s budget are the board.”

Carrión gave his warning on Univision’s “Jugando Pelota Dura” talk show shortly after the board’s public meeting. Should Rosselló not abide by the fiscal plan, the board, Carrión said, will be forced to meet the economic projections certified Thursday by further cutting the island’s budget.

The oversight board unanimously approved the fiscal plans for Puerto Rico’s Electric Power (Prepa) and Aqueduct & Sewer (Prasa) authorities. To the surprise of many, board member Ana Matosantos voted against the commonwealth’s plan because it would bring “too much pain with too little promise.”

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