FY 2022 budget likely headed to conference committee

By The Star Staff

At press time Thursday, it looked like the $10.1 billion budget for the next fiscal year, which starts July 1, will go to a conference committee as the island House of Representatives objected to Senate amendments to the legislation.

The Senate was proposing amendments to the budget to increase the allocation to the legislative chambers, but House Speaker Rafael Hernández Montañez said he does not concur with the changes.

Late on Thursday, the Senate had yet to vote on the budget. La Fortaleza also said the budget needed to be significantly changed or Gov. Pedro Pierluisi Urrutia was going to inform the federal Financial Oversight and Management Board that he was going to oppose it.

The Senate Treasury Committee, chaired by Juan Zaragoza, earlier this week kept the $109.2 million allocation to the Legislature made by the House. However, the budget for the Senate increases to $24.9 million from $21.4 million, while the budget for the House of Representatives increases to $32.5 million from $28 million. The Senate version of the budget reduces the allocation for the Capitol Superintendency to $8.9 million from $10.6 million. The budget for the Office of Legislative Services was reduced to $5.6 million from $7.2 million.

The Senate kept the budget for the Office of the Commonwealth Comptroller the same, but reduced the allocations for payroll and appropriations.

Despite the dispute, Senate President José Luis Dalmau Santiago and La Fortaleza were negotiating to eliminate a provision in the budget that would have hindered the governor’s power by forcing him to seek the approval of the Legislature when making reallocations or budget rescheduling. With the change, the majority hopes to get New Progressive Party votes and the governor’s signature on the document. The governor earlier this week had objected to the budget.

The budget requires the governor to seek legislative approval and approval from the oversight board to obtain funding from the Emergency Reserve, funds for unallocated capital improvements and other reserves such as health care, technology and the economic incentive fund, which are under the custody of the Office of Management and Budget and the Treasury Department. The Legislature and the oversight board must also give approval to any money for incentives that the Department of Economic Development and Commerce requests every quarter.

The budget is opposed by the senators from the Citizen Victory Movement and by Sen. Maria de Lourdes Santiago of the Puerto Rican Independence Party. At press time Thursday, Independent Sen. José Vargas Vidot was still evaluating how he was going to vote.

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