(André Kang)

With the approval of legislative donation measures last night, the Legislative Assembly was completing budgetary procedures, while it was expected that the Oversight Board would publish the details of the budget it would certify for the fiscal year that begins today.

Conversations between the legislative leadership and members of the federal entity that controls the finances of Puerto Rico had vanished by the end of Senate and House sessions after the Board announced cuts for $ 345 million in government expenses .

"We have nothing else to do but wait for the Board to take the pencil and put whatever it wants in the budget," Senate Vice President Larry Seilhamer told El Nuevo Día. "There were no further conversations on the issue," he added.

Natalie Jaresko, Board executive director, said in written statements, that they are "evaluating the budget submitted by the Legislature to verify if it complies with the fiscal plan."

Some sources said that today, the Board would certify and publish the documents associated with the budget, which will finally direct government spending for the next 12 months.

By press time, the distribution of  $ 21 million in legislative donation was to be approved. Completing documentation and voting on the reports of conference committees that standardized the different versions of the measure was the only things left.

Last night, it was unknown whether the Board would approve these donations. On Friday, the president of that entity, José B. Carrión, anticipated cuts that included the Legislative Branch.

A letter that Carrión sent to government leaders on Friday stated that the government failed to comply with the fiscal plan certified in April and with the review made in May, as it did not give way to the repeal of the Unjust Dismissal Act  (Law 80) and the tax reform.

As a result, the fiscal plan was amended again to reflect this failure and adjust government expenditures.

The letter anticipated that the expenses for the new fiscal year charged to the General Fund will be around $ 8,458 million. While the consolidated budget will be $ 20,355 million. These amounts include cuts to municipal allocations and the elimination of the Christmas bonus for public employees.

Contrary to the version of the budget previously recommended by the Board, this time there will be no changes in the allocations to the offices of Government Ethics and the Comptroller.


On the other hand, by press time, the approval of projects that will reorganize the departments of Economic Development and Commerce (DDEC, Spanish acronym) and that of Labor and Human Resources (DTRH, Spanish acronym) was expected.

They were also working on the creation of the Public Service Regulatory Board, an entity that would merge the Telecommunications Regulatory Board, the Public Service Commission, the Energy Commission, the Independent Office for Consumer Protection and the Energy Administration.

Zero bonuses

In addition, the Chamber joint resolution seeking to prevent the Electric Power Authority (PREPA) from paying productivity bonuses to the directors of that public corporation, including the head of the utility Walter M. Higgins, had already been approved in the Senate. 

Higgins earns  $ 450,000 per year and has bonuses that can raise his income to one million dollars. This has been criticized by both legislative majority and minority representatives.

Justice Secretary Wanda Vázquez has questioned the legality of the so-called bonuses for productivity negotiated between Higgins and PREPA Governing Board. The House Joint Resolution 309 orders the public corporation to cancel or prohibit this type of bonuses for the executive director and other positions of trust.


 The Senate also endorsed a measure that suspends for a period of 90 days the issuance of fines through the AutoExpreso system, and also requests an external audit to certify the proper functioning of the processes that lead officials to issue fines.

In addition, the measure orders the Department of Transportation and Public Works to eliminate all fines to vehicles without a balance on its toll sticker. The agency can only bill the payment of tolls and postage charges.

New Progressive Party Senator Jorge Navarro authored these last two measures.

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