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  • The San Juan Daily Star

Governor to legislative leaders: Resolve your differences and approve the budget

Gov. Pedro Pierluisi

By The Star Staff

Gov. Pedro Pierluisi Urrutia asked the island’s legislative leaders on Tuesday to leave aside the arguments that have blocked the pending approval of the budget in the Legislative Assembly.

“Two days from the end of the fiscal year, it is time to give in and leave the [opposing] roles aside,” the governor said. “I call on the legislative leadership to harmonize their differences and to approve the budget that we have been working on together. We want the government’s budget to be approved and certified, not the [Financial Oversight and Management] Board’s. For this, it is necessary to maintain the required ceiling and ensure that the government’s priorities are met.”

In relation to Law 154, on the excise tax on controlled foreign corporations, which is also being held up by the dispute between the two legislators, it is essential, Pierluisi said, to ensure that the federal Treasury Department will allow foreign manufacturers to be credited with what the Puerto Rican government asks them to pay through an income tax instead of an excise tax.

The ongoing dispute between the legislative chamber leaders José Luis Dalmau Santiago, the Senate president, and Rafael “Tatito” Hernández Montañez, the speaker of the House of Representatives, prevented both the presentation late Monday night of the commonwealth budget to the Financial Oversight and Management Board and the passage of the excise tax legislation.

“It is unfortunate because this measure is the most important one that the Legislature considers. … Here are the salary increases, money for the municipalities, different agencies that offer additional services,” Dalmau Santiago highlighted in a speech to the Senate. “Although we bring differences to this vote, there is recognition of the importance of this document. One feels a great disappointment, but such is democracy and parliament with two bodies. On this occasion it was not completed on the corresponding date.”

Dalmau Santiago noted that the legislative bodies had to reach an agreement on the final language of the measure in conference committee in order to sign the conference committee’s report and take it to a final vote in both chambers. However, the House of Representatives did not send the signed document and recessed its work. The Legislature had until this past Monday to approve the budget in compliance with the calendar established by the oversight board.

The oversight board had plans to certify the budget by June 30, but if the document is not compliant with the fiscal plan, the entity would approve its own budget.

“The document above, which originates from the House at 11:45 p.m. has not reached the Senate, which makes it impossible for us to work with it, but [to make things] even more impossible, the House went on recess,” the Senate president said. “The measure has not reached the Senate. In this particular, some amendments were introduced in the House that are not compatible. The parliamentary situation is that it has not [passed], but there was an itinerary agreement for the conference committee to approve the bill.”

Hernandez Montañez, meanwhile, said the established agreements could not be fulfilled because of Dalmau Santiago’s “lack of leadership.”

“The House of Representatives always tells the truth, and it complied with having the necessary votes to approve the budget,” the House speaker said. “The improvisation and the continuous lack of leadership in the Senate was demonstrated once again yesterday when the necessary votes were not obtained in that body to approve the measures on the date requested.”

Hernández Montañez said that on Tuesday afternoon, the oversight board sent a message to the presidents of the two groups that represent the island’s mayors, the Mayors Association and the Mayors Federation, in which it recognized that the conversations to configure the budget for the next fiscal year continue apace in the Legislative Assembly.

“In addition, the federal entity showed openness so that we can continue the discussion on the initiatives that our mayors have demanded to stabilize the finances of the municipal governments and guarantee the continuity of operations through the only viable path in our government scheme: the approval of legislation,” the House speaker said. “Given this opportunity, it is up to us to overcome differences, unite wills and return immediately to the work table, to complete the work we began months ago to get the second balanced budget approved, restore fiscal health to public finances and guarantee the provision of essential services.”

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