House speaker: Governor doesn’t have to sign budget

By John McPhaul

Speaker of the House of Representatives Rafael “Tatito” Hernández Montañez said Wednesday in a radio interview that the budget for fiscal year 2021-2022, approved on Tuesday night in the island Legislature, does not need a signature from Gov. Pedro Pierluisi Urrutia.

“We do not need him to sign it,” Hernández Montañez said in a radio interview with Normando Valentín on Notiuno 630, regarding the reaction on Tuesday night of Pierluisi, who announced that he will not sign the budget resolution.

“We unfortunately do not control the budget. It is controlled day by day, after approving it [in the Legislature], day by day by the [Financial Oversight and Management Board],” the House speaker said. “When the board raised their hands, here is language to make it clear that you cannot arbitrarily do this. And that is my approach. If the governor does not approve it [the budget], which is the controversy, then he does not sign it. Well, then, he is deciding that the problem is not the colony, it is the colonized.”

“The problem is that the governor then stands for the record, that he gave more weight to an allocation of $1 million for lobbyists than an unprecedented approved budget of $10.112 billion. The question is not what will happen. We already approved it,” Hernández Montañez said.

“What happens is that this is a republican system of government. Let’s explain it again. In Puerto Rico there is no dictatorship. There is no king. There is a republican system of government.”

Hernández Montañez said that if Pierluisi vetoes the budget measure for the next fiscal year, then for “the four years” of the current term he [Hernández Montañez] will maintain the same language as in the budget for fiscal year 2021-2022.

The Senate and the House on Tuesday night approved the House Joint Resolution (HJR) 144 on the island budget for fiscal year 2021-2022, a measure that totals $10.112 million.

The Senate approved the budget with 14 votes in favor and 13 against, while the lower chamber endorsed HJR 144 with 27 votes in favor and 17 against.

“After extensive conversations, the report of the Conference Committee was endorsed loudly in the legislative session set up between representatives and senators of all delegations, reaching a consensus to reconcile the proposals of both [chambers] and approve the budget that will come into force next July 1,” said a statement from the House of Representatives.

“In that budget there are funds for the University of Puerto Rico, funds for Correction employees, there are funds for PREPA [Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority] employees who were transferred to agencies, funds for municipalities, funds for the symphony, for patients with intellectual disabilities, for the deaf community, for the residency programs in the Medical and Neurology Center, and for the council of the homeless population,” Senate President José Luis Dalmau Santiago told the press.

Dalmau Santiago noted that the House amendment was included that prohibits the governor from transferring funds to agencies without the approval of the Legislature.

Likewise, Dalmau Santiago said, “the Financial Oversight and Management Board will have until June 25 to react, whether or not to approve the budget, and then notify the Legislative Assembly if they are going to approve the resolution or if it is in violation; and if it is in violation, to have the opportunity in the Legislature to amend the violations, and on June 28 to present the new version, and on June 30 the board must say whether or not they accept the budget.”

“For me, the budget is more important for the country, than any consideration that we may have, be it political or the difference between the bodies,” the Senate leader said. “We want to keep the ball in play.”

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