The San Juan Daily Star
Senate to hold hearings on bill that would transfer SIF funds to utilities
By The Star Staff
The Senate will hold public hearings Tuesday on legislation that would transfer some $145 million from the State Insurance Fund (SIF) to the Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority (PREPA) and $20 million to the Puerto Rico Aqueduct and Sewer Authority (PRASA) to avoid the immediate need for further utility rate hikes, Senate Committee on Strategic and Energy Projects Chairman Javier Aponte Dalmau has announced.
Senate Bill 931 was included by Gov. Pedro Pierluisi Urrutia in the list of bills to be evaluated during an extraordinary session.
“There are serious concerns about the repercussions that the proposed alternative will bring about, taking significant capital out of a public corporation that provides an important service to workers as there is no guarantee the funds will be paid back,” Aponte Dalmau said. “So we believe that, despite how limited the extraordinary session may be, we must discharge our legislative function in a responsible manner and give due process to this important bill.”
The Popular Democratic Party senator said the House of Representatives had evaluated House Bill 1387, which had the same purpose as Senate Bill 931 included in the list of measures for the extraordinary session.
“We have already requested all the papers and reports that were submitted in the House,” Aponte Dalmau said.
The senator also said he is already working on possible amendments to the bill that will include sources of repayment for the SIF and legislative proposals that have already been evaluated to permanently address the problem of rate fluctuations.
Among the agencies that will be summoned to testify in the public hearings are the State Insurance Fund Corp., the Union of Employees and the Union of Managers of the State Insurance Fund, PREPA, PRASA, the Puerto Rico Fiscal Agency and Financial Advisory Authority, and the Office of Management and Budget.
SIF workers have said that if the bill becomes law, they will battle against it in court as they object to giving public funds to LUMA Energy, the private operator of PREPA’s transmission and distribution system, which is in charge of everything related to power rates.