NPP lawmakers: Blame PDP, ex-Gov. García Padilla for teachers’ retirement crisis
By John McPhaul
New Progressive Party (NPP) Reps. José Aponte Hernández, Víctor Parés Otero, Juan Oscar Morales and Luis “Junior” Pérez Ortiz on Sunday blamed the Popular Democratic Party (PDP) and former Gov. Alejandro García Padilla for the crisis in the Teachers’ Retirement System (SRM by its Spanish initials).
Aponte Hernández, a former speaker of the island House of Representatives, said the current legislative leaders, House Speaker Rafael “Tatito” Hernández Montañez and Senate President José Luis Dalmau, along with legislators such as Luis Raúl Torres and Javier Aponte Dalmau, among others, never fulfilled their promise to introduce a law that would restore what they cut from teachers’ pensions.
“The Popular party has blatantly lied about everything related to the retirement of teachers. Let us remember that on Dec. 23, 2013, Christmas Eve, the PDP-led Legislative Assembly approved a measure that, according to them and their leader, the then-governor, Alejandro García Padilla, would provide solvency to the Teachers’ Retirement System and that this matter would not have to be addressed until 2024,” Aponte Hernández said in a written statement. “That was false. What Law 160-2013 did was raise the retirement age of teachers who entered after Aug. 31, 2014, to 62 years if they had at least five years of service and if they had made individual contributions of $10,000 or more. In essence, they increased the [retirement] age by seven years, from 55 to 62, but did not take into account factors such as teacher migration, natural retirement, and the dramatic reduction in school enrollment. That exercise was a useless one, played for the crowd and without any possibility of success. It is because of these irresponsible acts that we are here today.”
Parés Otero added that “[t]hey were so brazen that they told the teachers that they would be raising their salary by $300 a year for a period of 10 years in order to mitigate the increase in age and contribution.”
“As you already know, that was another lie. Such an increase was never legislated, to say the least,” he said. “The same thing happened with the alleged window for pre-retirement, which the PDP Legislature approved in 2015 with savings projections of $822,000 in the first year. That didn’t materialize either. In fact, figures related to this action were never offered. This is the disastrous pattern of the past administration.”
Morales, for his part, said the PDP misinformed the people at the time, alleging that teachers’ pensions averaged $1,371 a month.
“That was and is false,” he said. “The average teachers’ pension for 2013 was around $2,000 according to data from the SRM itself. Yet PDP lawmakers didn’t even corroborate these numbers when they sentenced teachers to poverty. Law 160 reduced the minimum pension by 26 percent, from about $2,200 to $1,600 a month. Supposedly these monies would be invested in the System, but that never happened.”
“They did not comply with their own Law,” Morales added. “They are supposed to enter, at least, $40 million in special contributions from 2014 to 2017. That never happened. On the contrary, they were so irresponsible that they left the teachers in the abyss.”
“With all this disaster, where the Island is being brought out of bankruptcy, our administration has been working, fixing the finances destroyed by the PDP and establishing the necessary economic and fiscal footing to give our teachers an increase of $470, the second largest in the history of teaching in Puerto Rico,” Pérez Ortiz said.