Just as the implementation of the fiscal plan begins to take shape, majority lawmakers held a meeting with Natalie Jaresko, Director of the Oversight Board, at the Capitol on Monday, and they questioned funding cuts in the public safety area.
At the meeting, New Progressive Party Senator Henry Neumann showed Jaresko -using a cellphone - the video that became viral about a shooting on Saturday in Barbosa Avenue, in Hato Rey, in which a man was gunned down by criminals inside his own truck.
A source from El Nuevo Día told that, after watching the cell phone for a few seconds, Jaresko said she had seen the images previously. Thereafter, Jaresko would have told the senators that, if they want the Department of Public Safety (DPS) to have more funds, they will have to come from another item.
"She answered that, in general terms, there must be a willingness to work and that, although she recognizes that there are some sacrifices, they (the Board) have to comply with creditors, bondholders, and that if those sacrifices are not made, we will not get anywhere," said a source that participated in the meeting.
Senator Zoé Laboy would also have questioned Jaresko at the meeting about cuts in safety.
Beyond the budget issue, Jaresko explained that reducing crime requires taking other measures directed to have a more efficient police force. In that sense, the Director mentioned the need for DPS administrative tasks to be in hands of civilians, which will result in more police officers on the streets.
Dissapointment with Law 80
Meanwhile, Carmelo Ríos, spokesman for the Senate majority, said that Jaresko told the senators that she was disappointed because Law 80 of Unjust Dismissal was not repealed.
In contrast, Ríos said that he objected to the economic projections of the Board in the fiscal plan, in an exchange with Jaresko.
"I totally disagree with her. Part of my background is in Economics and I have to see the Gross National Product models," said Rios, noting that the negative economic projections adopted by the Board are illogical, when considering the federal funds injection that Puerto Rico will receive in the aftermath of Hurricane María.
On the other hand, El Nuevo Día learned, from a source at the meeting, that Jaresko insisted that a referendum for the Police to start contributing to Social Security is not necessary. The Board´s position is that police officers aged 40 or younger should enter the system.
Also, Jaresko said that they are still evaluating proposals from companies that would be responsible for managing the defined contribution plan that public employees will have as their new retirement system.
Jaresko described the meeting she had with members of the Legislature as positive, where she explained the processes that the federal agency has adopted to update and implement the fiscal plan.
"I think it was a very good meeting and I hope we can have others," Jaresko told El Nuevo Día.
El Nuevo Día found out that the meeting with senators came at the Board´s request, who sent a letter to the Senate and House presidents, Thomas Rivera Schatz and Carlos "Johnny" Méndez respectively, about a month ago. According to sources, the parties have agreed to hold meetings on a regular basis.
On this occasion, in addition to the meeting with the majority senators, Jaresko met with Méndez and the president of the Finance Committee, Antonio Soto.
According to Jaresko, one of the roles of the Board is to publicize its functions in light of PROMESA, and inform those who develop public policy about the positions and expectations of the federal entity appointed to balance the finances of the Puerto Rican government.
"There are many areas in which we are working together," Jaresko said, noting that the federal entity and the Legislature are already discussing different issues. Among these, changes to the contributory system and regulations suggested by the Legislature on the energy area. For the Board, the new regulation for the island´s power grid must be "friendly" to the investor, while serving the needs of the customers of the Electric Power Authority (PREPA).
"All these things are part of the fiscal plan, so having a dialogue is crucial to ensure that we are going in the same direction," said Jaresko.
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