Search
  • The San Juan Daily Star

Bipartisan bill filed in Congress to hasten fiscal board’s dissolution


U.S. Rep. Ritchie Torres

By John McPhaul

jpmcphaul@gmail.com


U.S. Rep. Ritchie Torres (D-N.Y.) was joined by Resident Commissioner Jenniffer González Colón (R-P.R.), Rep. Nydia Velázquez (D-N.Y.), Rep. Darren Soto (D-Fla.), and House Natural Resources Committee Chair Rep. Raúl Grijalva (D-Ariz.) in introducing new bipartisan legislation to provide a process for the dissolution of the Financial Oversight and Management Board for Puerto Rico.


“The ‘TRUST’ for Puerto Rico Act of 2002 (HR7409) would terminate the Oversight Board … no later than 90 days after the certification of two balanced budgets and transfers all duties and responsibilities to the Government of Puerto Rico after the Oversight Board is terminated,” the legislators said in a press release.


If the bill is passed by Congress and signed into law by President Biden, it could lead to the oversight board leaving Puerto Rico as soon as late 2023 or early 2024, if the balanced budgets are certified.


The bill was assigned to the House Natural Resources Committee and the House Judiciary Committee and is expected to receive a hearing later this spring.


“The Financial Oversight and Management Board represents a cardinal sin against the sovereignty and self-determination of Puerto Rico,” Torres said. “It is the single most egregious example of modern-day colonialism in Puerto Rico and must be disbanded. The undemocratic, unelected Oversight Board has driven the island into fiscal mismanagement and has prevented Puerto Ricans from taking control over their own destiny. I’m proud to introduce the TRUST for Puerto Rico Act, along with my colleagues, to finally provide a path for the dissolution of the Oversight Board and return control and power to the island’s residents and government.”


González Colón added: “Now that Puerto Rico has exited bankruptcy, we are ready for another chapter without an Oversight Board. I’m proud to work alongside my colleague Rep. Ritchie Torres on this bill to outline a way forward, renew access credit to markets, and establish a clear transition of assets management duties back to the government of Puerto Rico. I look forward to seeing that happen.”


“This bipartisan bill takes meaningful steps to phase out the role of the Oversight Board in statute,” Velázquez said. “As I have said before, it is time to have a conversation about how the government of Puerto Rico can move to best represent the interests of the people without the presence of the Board. By setting the parameters for that transition, this bill is an important step. I encourage both the House and the Senate to move quickly to pass it into law.”


“The PROMESA [Puerto Rico Oversight, Management and Economic Stability Act] board’s austerity cuts have gone on for long enough. We must ensure that the island’s budget is managed in a fiscally responsible way that doesn’t cut social programs and other vital services,” Soto noted. “I believe that our brothers and sisters in Puerto Rico deserve better, and this bill is a step in the right direction toward returning power to the people.”


The oversight board’s tenure has been characterized by controversy over the fiscal measures required for the debt settlement and their impact on areas such as pensions and worker benefits. The labor sector on the island has opposed the budgetary and regulatory measures, economic analysts have questioned the cost and benefit balance of the debt renegotiation, and figures across the political spectrum have expressed dissatisfaction with the limiting of the powers of the elected government.


The “Trust for Puerto Rico Act” addresses the following:


Eliminates the requirement of access to credit markets and reduces the required number of balanced budgets from four to two consecutive fiscal years without regard to whether the applicable budget provides for the payment of debt service.


Establishes that the oversight board will be terminated no later than 90 days after certification of the two balanced budgets and clarifies that any balanced budget before the enactment of the bill should be taken into account.


Enables the Legislative Assembly and governor of Puerto Rico to adopt a resolution after the certification of two balanced budgets to set forth the transfer of functions. The oversight board will transfer all funds, assets and records to the Puerto Rico government and provide a copy of all records to Congress.


Transfers all duties and responsibilities under Title III and Title VI to the Puerto Rico government after the oversight board terminates, with respect to any pending action.


“Congressman Ritchie Torres’ bill is targeted and reasonable, and it has my full support,” Gov. Pedro Pierluisi Urrutia said. “After putting an end to our central government’s bankruptcy process, it is time to begin the transition toward returning the public policy decision-making responsibilities back to Puerto Rico’s elected leaders who represent our people. It is also necessary to have a clear and agile process for the Oversight Board’s exit. The time has come to look toward a future of progress and fiscal responsibility for Puerto Rico without the Board.”

121 views0 comments