House still mulling bill that would tap State Insurance Fund to temper utility rate hikes
By The Star Staff
House Speaker Rafael Hernández Montañez said the lower chamber is still evaluating the future of a bill that will take $165 million from the State Insurance Fund Corp. (SIF) to alleviate the effect of hikes in the costs of electricity and drinking water.
Hernández Montañez said in a press conference that the energy issue goes beyond the proposal to mitigate cost increases and that he wants to talk with Gov. Pedro Pierluisi Urrutia about the Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority (PREPA) and the Public-Private Partnerships Authority. Pierluisi has said he wants the Legislature to pass the bill.
“We can keep doing this for 30 days, 40 days, but these are short-term things,” Hernández Montañez said.
SIF Administrator Jesús Rodríguez has said he will support the proposed money transfer as long as the fund is reimbursed or repaid immediately.
The House is also evaluating a bill that will place the supervision of LUMA Energy’s contract for management of the electricity transmission and distribution system in the hands of PREPA, but Sen. Javier Aponte Dalmau opposes the idea. The STAR learned that part of the problem is that PREPA as it is known now will not exist in the future after the legacy power plants are put under private management.
Hernández Montañez said he supports legislation that would cut PREPA’s debt as that will do more to help ease rising energy costs.
“If there is something that truly resolves the problem of long-term energy costs, it is to cut the debt by 80%,” he said.
PREPA, which has a $9 billion debt, has been in bankruptcy since 2017. At the end of the month, all stakeholders must have reached an agreement on the debt.
Hernández Montañez also said the draft budget resolution that the Legislature was slated to send to the Financial Oversight and Management Board contains a $100 million cut over the Senate version approved last week. The oversight board has said the budget must be cut by $147 million.