Governor Ricardo Rosselló Nevares said yesterday he was concerned about some budget items that were reduced by the Oversight Board and that, in his opinion, they require further evaluation in order to be changed.
He mentioned two lines in particular, the oversight agencies that have budget cuts and government agencies with reductions that may render them "inoperative."
"Those are the areas I am concerned about regarding the budget and that should be evaluated," said the governor, however he did not specify if there is any dialogue or negotiation with the Board to change budget items.
On June 6, the Board sent the budget resolution for the next fiscal year directly to the Legislature. The document includes the increase requested by the Board for its operation, a 5 percent reduction to all agencies budget and $ 279.8 million from the oil barrel tax -intended for debt payment - for the $ 1,500 monthly salary increase to teachers and police officers.
June 21 is the deadline set by the Board for the approval of the budget for the next fiscal year. Four days later, June 25, is the last day to approve measures. The ordinary session ends on June 30.
The discussion on the budget occurs at a time when the Legislature is still analyzing the repeal of the Unjust Dismissal Law (Law 80-1976). The elimination of the statute is the condition that the Board requires to approve the budget, with the argument that it is necessary for the island´s economic growth. The House of Representatives passed a measure that would repeal Law 80 and create a $100 million fund during the next three years for compensation payments in the private sector, an item that the Executive Branch endorses and that will be discussed in the Senate.
The Board and the Governor agreed to repeal the statute in exchange for more funds in the budget and to protect, during the five-year fiscal plan, the Christmas bonus and vacation and sick leave. The Legislature´s budget does not change and that of the Governor’s Office increases more than 100 percent.
Meanwhile, oversight agencies such as the Office of Government Ethics, the Office of the Comptroller and the Office of the Ombudsman, among others, face budget cuts ranging from $ 800,000 to $ 3.2 million.
La Fortaleza Secretary of Public Affairs, Ramón Rosario Cortés, had said that "these agencies, in addition to being independent by law, are going to have an important role in the management of funds, due to the federal funds that are coming. So we want to strengthen them. We will be working to leave those agencies budget as they are so they do not suffer the reduction that other agencies are suffering."
"There are some areas where we have differences. For example, cuts to independent agencies. We have a significant difference there," said the Governor.
He also assured that cuts to agencies, such as the Department of Education, respond to a discrepancy of between $ 100 and $ 130 million with the Board´s estimates.
"They started applying it in all the agencies. Beware: there are some that can withstand a blow to the budget. There are others that cannot, that, for example, they have a function that is already at the limit and if you take a little more away, then they may be rendered inoperative," warned Rosselló Nevares.
In that line, he mentioned that Education faces a $ 191.5 million cut, including the Special Education item, which will receive $ 78.2 million less while the Legislative Assembly is promoting a new Law on Special Education.
The Health Insurance Administration (ASES, Spanish acronym) would have $ 22 million less and the Department of Public Safety (DPS) reaches $ 49.6 million in reductions.
Rossello said that when added to the budget "that variance brings some uncertainty."
However, the governor did not explain how he keeps advocating for the repeal of Law 80 in exchange for a budget that does not please him.
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