It seems that minority legislators cannot agree on what steps to take after the upsurge of budget cuts required by the Oversight Board (OB).
Yesterday, Puerto Rican Independence Party (PIP) Representative Denis Márquez and independent Senator José Vargas Vidot called for resistance and protests against the Board. Meanwhile, PDP Representative Jesús Manuel Ortiz demanded the administration submit a “credible” fiscal plan and immediately restructure the debt.
Led by Chair José B. Carrión, the OB rejected the Governor’s Fiscal Plan for Puerto Rico (FPPR) on Thursday, by stating that it does not meet the Puerto Rico Oversight, Management, and Economic Stability Act's (PROMESA) stipulations, it relies on “overly optimistic” economic projections, and it forecasts public expenditures that differ from the local Government’s usual patterns. In addition, the OB set a deadline for the Governor to submit an amended plan, including larger cuts aimed at fixing a $7.6-billion deficit. The deadline was set for today at 9:00 a.m.
The Board specifies a series of required adjustments in a letter addressed to the Governor. These include a gradual reduction in healthcare costs reaching $750 million by 2021; $550 million in payroll cuts as of the next fiscal year, reaching $1.3 billion by 2021; the implementation of reforms to social benefits programs; improvements in labor participation; the consolidation of public schools; and increasing the University of Puerto Rico's (UPR) cuts from $300 million to $450 million.
Regardless of this, Márquez called on the Government to not cooperate with the OB and confront it instead. The federal entity controls local finances in accordance with PROMESA. “The time has come for us to decide whether we accept the Board’s plans or we reject them,” condemned the PIP legislator.
Meanwhile, in light of the dramatic cutbacks required by the OB, as well as the social and economic impact these would have on the Island, Vargas Vidot urged the people to “rise up and protest in an organized manner”.
According to the public health professional, the UPR cutbacks are a clear example of the Oversight Board’s ill will.
“I believe the Board is an insult to the people’s dignity. The least we should expect from any government in a situation like this is for us to react by demanding our dignity, and precisely defying every demand the Board makes that hurts our society’s financial and economic climate,” claimed the Legislator.
“Organizing the struggles is crucial,” he added.
Popular Democratic Party (PDP) Representative Jesús Manuel Ortiz urged the Government to submit a fiscal plan based on actual numbers. He also came out in favor of urgently restructuring the debt under PROMESA’s Title III.
“As long as the Government does not exhibit a true intention to develop a well-substantiated plan, the Board will not accept it. That is what the Government wants,” expressed the former Public Affairs Secretary.
The Representative-at-large theorized that the current administration’s “strategy” is “to have the Board dole out instructions so they can say they had a more benevolent plan, but that’s incorrect”.