Governor leans toward accepting fiscal board’s version of budget
By The Star Staff
Gov. Pedro Pierluisi Urrutia said Monday that he will accept the version of the budget proposed by the Financial Oversight and Management Board, which is $100 million less than the one proposed by the government.
“There was a difference of about $100 million because of the form and manner in which the Board estimated that we are going to benefit from the additional federal funds under the Medicaid program,” the governor said in response to questions from the press. “My inclination is to stick to the total amount of the budget that the Board wants to approve, but that decision will not be made until later in the day. In other words, because we are deliberating the different alternatives that we have.”
“If we change the total amount then that is going to be an area of divergence,” Pierluisi noted. “If we don’t change it, then it can happen that in some of the budget requests we make an adjustment and in others we don’t. Among those that I am not going to make adjustments to is the one that has to do with salary increases for the Institute [of Forensic Sciences]; I am making the commitment here. So, they let Juan Carlos Blanco, the director of the OGP [Office of Management and Budget, by its Spanish initials], know. That one goes, that one I am going to insist that it goes [as is].”
Last week, the oversight board, the federal entity created under PROMESA, reported that the budget presented by the governor is about $100 million above the recommended budget and was in violation of the fiscal plan.
In a 29-page letter, the oversight board agreed to budget increases for certain agencies to finance particular prevention initiatives aimed at minors, additional resources to pay for the fuel used by government vehicles given the rise in crude oil prices, the recruitment of firefighters and even to contribute more funds to the pension trust.
But in turn, the board granted less funding than had been requested by the Pierluisi administration or rejected additional appropriations to the University of Puerto Rico, the correctional health program, the Department of Natural and Environmental Resources to pay for the hiring of lifeguards, the Puerto Rico Federal Affairs Administration in Washington -- which requested additional funds for the delegation that seeks statehood for the island and the leasing of space -- as well as the Institute of Forensic Sciences.