• The San Juan Daily Star

Fiscal board’s latest filing with Title III court looks like a rejection of Legislature’s actions

Financial Oversight and Management Board member Antonio Medina

By The Star Staff

Despite being summoned to a meeting with lawmakers next Monday to work on a final version of House Bill 1003, which would enable the debt adjustment plan, the Financial Oversight and Management Board submitted plan supplements to the federal Title III court, including the two versions of the bill.

House Bill 1003 was approved by the House but the Senate amended it. Both chambers have to get together to work on a single version of the bill, which would enable the debt adjustment plan to restructure some $35 billion in debt. However, House Speaker Rafael Hernández Montañez said he would not be approving a final version of the bill unless he gets assurances that pensions will not be cut as part of the restructuring.

The oversight board late on Monday submitted the two versions of the bill to the court in what seemed to be a rejection of the Legislature’s actions.

Board member Antonio Medina said Tuesday that pension cuts are not an “issue” in the approval of the debt adjustment plan, but rather it is the 10 amendments introduced by the Senate to the bill that will not allow the island to emerge from bankruptcy.

“Where the gig is blocked is when the bill reaches the Senate,” Medina said in an interview. “They have put 10 additional conditions that when you numerically evaluate them, the cost of those 10 alternatives is billions of dollars, and there is a specific line in the legislation that says that if the Board does not include those 10 points in the fiscal plan, the legislation is undone, ceases to be effective, to exchange the bonds. And with that type of language we definitely cannot work.”

He said the oversight board is willing to dialogue to reach agreements, but at this time they have not been able to sit at the table because the legislative leaders and Gov. Pedro Pierluisi Urrutia are off the island.

“I maintain that we can come up with appropriate language,” said. “I feel that this legislation, once we reach the necessary agreement, brings Puerto Rico out of bankruptcy, which is really the big news.”

Medina said the Senate amendments that include among them a universal medical plan and an increase in allocations to the University of Puerto Rico are the same practices and policies that led the island to bankruptcy.

“The solution is in restitution,” he said. “As additional money arrives from the United States for Medicaid, money is released from the general fund and we, the Board, have said publicly that we are not going to oppose the restoration of pensions to 100%.”

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