Spending $1.2 million in office rental for members of the House of Representatives is not only unnecessary but shows the privilege of the Legislature in the distribution of public funds, amid a fiscal crisis that threatens the services for thousands of disadvantaged citizens.
The House leadership is called to rectify such a disproportion, revealed by El Nuevo Día in an in-depth report . The data reveal that for the last two years, they used the funds to rent about thirty offices for some legislators, additional to those they have in the Capitol. This figure does not cover payroll, security and equipment costs, among others, so it is to be assumed that it is much higher.
Despite the fact that the House has regional offices in Ponce, Lares, Aguada and Fajardo, they have rented two and even three spaces in the legislators districts.
This spending was not even proper when the Treasury had better days, let alone would they be now when thousands of citizens make sacrifices to comply with their familial and tax obligations.
The fiscal crisis has been the main reason to consolidate schools and public offices. Cuts on medical plans and other benefits for public employees, among many other austerity measures, are part of the efforts to put a stop to the budget imbalance that the government has been facing for decades.
The wise step -and obviously the real humanitarian step- is that all public sectors cooperate top ut and end to unnecessary spending, specifically when it comes to political nature.
The Legislative Assembly must not be the exception. They have to cooperate by stopping, in their own House, the bleeding of funds that led the island to a default and a bankruptcy process before Federal Court.
Puerto Rican legislators have multiple ways to reach and contact voters in their districts. To start with, representatives must live in the district they are representing, so their constituents are close. They can plan visits to places where their constituents live. Besides, they can interact through technology.
Municipalities can offer spaces or rent at nominal cost for the legislators to meet with neighbors. Only a few members of the Assembly have this kind of agreements.
Legislators should find alternatives for citizens participation that do not entail absurd costs. Savings are necessary to cover people´s urgent needs.
Public servants should set the example. And representatives, in particular, are key in the legislative design of budgetary priorities. They should not forget that they are tasked with providing Puerto Rico with balanced budget for five years, as a proof of fiscal solvency. That will account for their service and will inspire trust.
The House of Representatives must be fully transparent and wise in handling public funds under their responsibility.
Then, it is necessary for the leadership to explain the nature of the spending in offices, including contracts with relatives and legislators and political parties donors. Silence and half-explanations over these agreements, and other duties, don´t help Puerto Rico.
The political class has to lead Puerto Rico to fiscal and economic reconstruction. The success of the mission relies on a strong commitment that closes the abyss of inequality many Puerto Ricans suffer while unjustified public spending grows.
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