Despite the fact that the budget will remain in the $9,562 billion announced by governor Ricardo Roselló in his message, it will suffer changes in terms of distribution of items to fulfil the demands of the Fiscal Oversight Board and to provide essential services to the Island, as anticipated by the House president Carlos “Johnny” Méndez.
For that purpose, both Méndez as the Executive branch will present, this week, joint resolutions to complement the 2017- 2018 fiscal year budget that could be approved between Wednesday and Thursday. Méndez assured that these resolutions are not about collections.
“It is redistribution of which exists right now in the essential services budget. In the last review over the budget (last Thursday) Justice was short on (Budget) in about $10 million. Security needs more money, Health and the Department of Transportation & Public Works for the maintenance and conservation of roads”, said Méndez over a telephonic interview.
“We want to keep it inside the Plan of fiscal adjustment. The excesses and allocations that were not directed to attend the services to the people are over”, he added.
At the same time, he assured that the changes in the items are being consulted with the Executive branch and the Board. “In the middle of the discussion we are notifying the Board and looking for feedback so, when it is approved, the Executive branch can sign it and the Board already knows what has been approved. That is why, we are being very assertives in communication. And that is alos why, precisely, from the first day, we warned the Board that we were not going to meet the deadline they imposed. There are details that have to be covered, for example, the Montessori Education schools. We are looking at the items for alternative schools. That is why we wanted to make public hearings, we wanted to give the process publicity and transparency”, pointed out the legislator.
Just last week, the Board president, José B. Carrión, wrote to the governor to indicate that he was still waiting for the administration to define which services are considered essential. Carrión’s request was extended to the presidents of the House and the Senate, and it came out two days before the date imposed by the Board for the approval of the budget was due. That date was June 19th.
“We are tuning the details of the budget and attending to the concerns of the Board, the thing here is to define which services are essential and we have made that in conversations with the Executive branch for possible changes or adjustments that the budget could suffer”, he said.
However, at the question of which items of the budget will be reduced over the reassignment of funds, Méndez did not give details.
“That is precisely what we are working on. I can not answer that question yet. Sacrifices must be made”, he just said.
During the weekend, both Méndez as the House Treasury Committee chairman, Antonio Soto, had meetings to finish the details of the budget, that has been questioned by parliament minorities because of the lack of specifications.
This being the case, Méndez noted that today, Monday, and tomorrow, Tuesday, they will continue to precise the budget and that he expects that it can be approved by Wednesday or Thursday. The House will hold its sessions tomorrow Tuesday and the Senate on Thursday.
“We are working as a team. The measures must be approved before June 25th”, he remembered.
The legislative sessions will end by June 30th.
We will have a budget approved before June 30th, it is the date that the Constitution demands from us”, assured Méndez.
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