Antonio "Tony" Zayas (Ramón “Tonito” Zayas)

Yesterday, - less than 24 hours before submitting the budget to the House - Antonio "Tony" Soto assured that budget lines will meet the economic needs of multiple agencies, but he was not clear about the estimated revenues for the government to operate next fiscal year.

According to Soto, - President of the House Treasury Committee- the Board´s revenue estimate falls short by about $ 700 million of the nearly $9,172 million projected by the end of the current fiscal years, June 30.

The New Progressive Party legislator estimates that, next fiscal year, additional revenues should be generated because the entity that controls the Island’s finances projects that the economy will grow by 6.3 percent.

By press time, Soto was waiting for communications from the Board and the Department of the Treasury to resolve this discrepancy. If the Board validates the representative's argument, the government would have between $ 300 million and $ 400 million more next fiscal year.

Regardless of that figure, among the 37 changes to items identified yesterday, Soto said that the government's Diagnosis and Treatment Centers will have the $ 7.5 million they need to operate, after redirecting money from other items of the Department of Health. In addition, he said that oversight entities such as the Office of Government Ethics, the Office of the Comptroller and the Office of the Ombudsman would receive the amounts recommended -not by the Board- but with minimal increases recommended by the government.

As for the Office of Courts Administration (OAT, Spanish acronym), he explained that a dispute arose over a $ 38 million debt that the Department of Justice has with that public entity for facility rental.

"The information was provided to the Office of Management and Budget (OMB), which is auditing the debt," said Soto, explaining that the OAT will receive the corresponding amount from the budget of the Department of Justice.

The Puerto Rico Forensic Sciences Institute will have $ 2 million more for operating expenses, out of which $ 783,000 will be for payroll. The cut of the payroll item when compared to the current budget is $ 600,000.

Soto also said that some areas of the Special Education Program of the Department of Education (DE) will be "rectified" by redirecting budget items from that agency. There was a $78 million reduction identified for Special Education in the DE budget, at least according to the way it was presented during a public hearing.

"A large part of that allocation is payroll," said Soto.

The president of House Treasury Committee explained that they will reduce the budget the Fiscal Agency and Financial Advisory Authority (FAFAA) from the current $ 88 million to $ 68 million. The proposal of the Board was $ 75.6 million.

The allocation for lawsuits related to Title III bankruptcy process is reduced by $ 9.9 million to settle at $ 261.3 million in the allocation line under the Department of the Treasury. This expense for the current fiscal year was $ 100 million.

The $ 122 million budget line allocated for the Police to pay previous debts has also been cut. But Soto warned that this would be achieved if the Board amends the fiscal plan to pay the debt off in five years, instead of three.

The budgets of the Legislature, the Board and the Office of the Governor would remain the same as recommended, Soto said. The allocations required for the $ 125 monthly increase to teachers and police officers will be included in the budget, in addition to a $ 125 increase for 319 agents in the Treasury Internal Revenue area. This increase would come from FAFAA's budget.

The budget also includes the $ 16.6 million for the Police Social Security program.

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