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  • Writer's pictureThe San Juan Daily Star

Governor announces $28 billion consolidated budget

By John McPhaul

Gov. Pedro Pierluisi Urrutia, along with Office of Management and Budget (OMB) the Executive Director Juan Carlos Blanco, Secretary of State Omar Marrero Díaz, and Treasury Secretary Francisco Parés Alicea, presented on Thursday a consolidated budget of close to $28 billion for fiscal year 2022-2023 that has been submitted to the Financial Oversight and Management Board and must also be evaluated by the Legislative Assembly.

“The total amount of this budget, particularly the expense in the General Fund, is what the [oversight board] provided us,” the governor said at a press conference. “In other words, we are starting from the numbers that the board has given us. What we are doing is establishing priorities and deciding in which programmatic areas we are going to spend or invest.”

He said “the consolidated budget amounts to the sum of $28.785 billion and includes $12.573 billion from the General Fund, $4.976 million from special funds and $11.236 million in federal funds.”

Pierluisi noted that if the oversight board approves the budget, this year he will not have to go to the Legislature to issue a message on the matter.

“If necessary I’ll deliver a budget message, but now I am doing exactly the same as I did last year,” the governor said in response to questions from the press. “But last year, as there were some big differences between the executive branch and the board, I did give a budget message to urge the Legislature not to give way to the budget that the board was submitting. This year I remain positive as we are working shoulder to shoulder with the board staff and we are using the numbers that the board gave us, and many of the expenses are consistent with the lines that the board provided us; I do not anticipate major conflicts this time. I am not necessarily going to give a budget message, but I am going to deliver a state message in which I can address the budget issue.”

General Fund items are subdivided into $5.462 billion for operating expenses, $3.355 billion in payroll expenses, $2.297 billion in pension payments, $1.1 billion for the Pension Reserve Trust, $771 million in debt service, $413 million in professional services and $268 million in capital expenditures.

“As a public policy of my administration, we are in the process of reducing expenses in professional service contracts and at the same time increasing payroll items to ensure that our public servants do the work,” Pierluisi said. “So we have a 20 percent increase in public payroll while reducing professional services hires by 13 percent. We also increased allocations for capital improvements and guaranteed improvements to policemen’s pensions.”

The governor added that in the same way, an investment is being made in salary increases and a review of salary scales in most government budget lines.

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