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  • Writer's pictureThe San Juan Daily Star

Governor to submit draft amendments to budget approved by fiscal board

Gov. Pedro Pierluisi

By The Star Staff

Gov. Pedro Pierluisi Urrutia announced Thursday that he will submit a draft of amendments to the budget approved by the Financial Oversight and Management Board, in order to address various items.

“We will continue to work with the Legislative Assembly to ensure that the funds go to where our people need them, and we will submit a draft of amendments to the budget resolution submitted to address these discrepancies that we have with the Board,” the governor said in a message broadcast by WIPR. “We are confident that we will be able to pass a consensus budget that benefits our people. You can count on my government to continue to work tirelessly for every citizen of this beautiful land.”

Pierluisi noted that among the amendments, he will seek to eliminate the responsibility of the municipalities in the contribution to the government Health Plan, and to secure additional funds beyond the minimum required by law to support the University of Puerto Rico, particularly for the Resident Medical Program and to meet its accreditations, its infrastructure and its student recruitment plans.

“The board has submitted a budget resolution for the General Fund of the Government of Puerto Rico to the Legislative Assembly. In the executive branch we agree with the amount of the budget, which totals $12.47 billion and is the largest in our history. In large part, it is an adequate budget that will allow us to prioritize essential services to our people, particularly in light of the growth of our economy and the increase in government revenues,” the governor said. “However, there are several areas in which it will be necessary to improve the budget submitted by the board to ensure that it reflects the needs and priorities of our people, as well as to enforce the public policy of our government.”

The submitted budget invests over $170 million to expand and improve the Public Service Reform in terms of salary increases. It also adds $37 million for the implementation of new classification and compensation plans in the judicial branch and provides incremental funding for government oversight agencies.

It also provides more than $20 million to bolster services for older adults, such as foster care and the housekeeping program, and includes funds needed to combat gender-based violence, as well as more resources to support nonprofits that serve vulnerable populations.

“We managed to get the budget to contain about $341 million for the acquisition of medical equipment, and improvements and rehabilitation of facilities of the Department of Health, including in public hospitals and in the residences of medical students,” Pierliuisi said in his message. “Meanwhile, we obtained additional resources to continue improving public safety facilities, and for the acquisition of equipment for our police, paramedics and firefighters. We also secured $76 million for the new boat terminal in Ceiba, repairs to maritime transportation vessels and improvements in the port of San Juan.”

The submitted budget also includes funds to continue supporting initiatives against climate change, for ecological restoration projects such as Caño Martín Peña and for flood control. It also will allow more investment in the promotion of Puerto Rico as a tourist destination and more capital investment. Some $64 million in technology services are also allocated for government interoperability, which the governor said will result in greater efficiencies and savings in the short and long term.

“At our insistence, the board allocates an encompassed item under which we can assist the municipalities and the university,” Pierluisi said. “We agree that concrete actions should be required of municipalities before receiving additional funds, such as administrative efficiencies and initiatives to increase [tax] collections. However, our municipalities have been suffering large cuts for years despite the fact that they are an extension of the government and provide essential services that complement or replace those of the central government, so we have to ensure that they have the resources they need.”

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