Governor declines to speculate on budget agreement with fiscal board

By John McPhaul

Gov. Pedro Pierluisi Urrutia said he did not want to anticipate on Thursday the possibility of agreeing for the first time on a budget that complies with the Fiscal Plan and that is not imposed by the federal Financial Oversight and Management Board.

“That remains to be seen,” the governor said in response to questions from the press. “The question is if we end up with the amount that the board wants to be spent, then the question is: where is it going to be cut? The question is: what essential services are going to suffer the consequences?”

Pierluisi defended his version of the budget and insisted that it meets the needs of pensioners, municipalities and the University of Puerto Rico (UPR).

The governor left the agreements reached with the oversight board for the approval of the budget in the hands of the Legislative Assembly.

“That is up to the legislative leaders there,” Pierluisi said. “They are the ones who are in talks with the board and what I am going to be very aware of is that essential services in the government are not affected, that the priorities that we all must have, such as defending the UPR, defending the municipalities, that they are fulfilled. I’m going to be aware of those things.”

He noted that Treasury Secretary Francisco Parés Alicea and Office of Management and Budget Director Juan Carlos Blanco will be available to the Legislative Assembly for questions during the process.

On Wednesday, Speaker of the House of Representatives Rafael “Tatito” Hernández Montañez, along with the chairmen of the Finance committees in both legislative chambers, Jesús Santa Rodríguez in the House and Juan Zaragoza Gómez in the Senate, met with David Skeel and Natalie Jaresko, the chairman and executive director, respectively, of the oversight board. At the end of the meeting, the legislative leaders let it be known that the budget they intend to approve will be less than the one presented by the federal entity created under the Puerto Rico Oversight, Management and Economic Stability Act, commonly known as PROMESA, but quite faithful to the items presented.

The governor made his statements after the 28th meeting of the oversight board, held at the Pedro Rosselló Convention Center in Miramar.

Among other things, gaining the board’s approval were the fiscal plans of the Puerto Rico Sales Tax Financing Authority, Puerto Rico Aqueduct and Sewer Authority, Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority, Highway and Transportation Authority, UPR, Industry Development Co. and Public Corporation for the Supervision and Insurance of Cooperatives of Puerto Rico.