July 28, 2021

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Governor addresses Puerto Rico today

In her first budget message, Wanda Vázquez Garced will focus on the areas of education, health, and economic development, said yesterday Osvaldo Soto, La Fortaleza Public Affairs Secretary, without providing other details on the event.

Although the Oversight Board´s executive director Natalie Jaresko said Tuesday the governor would present a budget larger than the one submitted by the federal entity, this situation does reflect differences with the Board, noted Soto.

He said, however, that Vázquez Garced is in talks with the Board.

“The governor of Puerto Rico is a governor that favors dialogue, she has been in dialogue with the Oversight Board and with all sectors for the benefit of Puerto Rico, but that does not mean there are differences,” Soto said.

In a session with reporters Tuesday, Jaresko revealed the governor would present a $10.214 million budget for the next fiscal year, which is $169 million more than the budget the fiscal entity proposed.

The Board submitted to the Legislative Assembly an operational budget of $10.045 billion funded through the General Fund, which is some $994 million more than the current budget.

“Tomorrow (today) Puerto Rico will have all the information regarding the budget of the government of Puerto Rico,” Soto said about the message Vázquez Garced will deliver today from the Fine Arts Center in Santurce.

This is the second consecutive budget message outside the local Capitol. Former Governor Ricardo Rosselló Nevares delivered what was his last budget message on June 9, 2019, from the Ponce Fair Complex, two months before he resigned from office.

Vázquez Garced argued she decided to hold the event outside the Capitol because of social distancing measures seeking to contain the spread of the COVID-19.

Soto did not want to anticipate the name of special guests attending the event, however, the governor had confirmed that federal Reconstruction Coordinator Peter Brown would be there.

The Public Affairs Secretary said the admiral’s attendance confirms that the relationship with the federal government -which “at some point was broken”- is improving. “His attendance sends a very clear message that the governor has been making the right decisions and that those relations with Washington have been improving, which is essential for the social and economic development of Puerto Rico,” he said.

Soto did not detail either if the governor would address the issue of public employee pensions or if the Executive branch´s proposal is indeed contrary to that of the Board´s, as Jaresko said Tuesday. Although yesterday Senator Carmelo Ríos confirmed that both the House and Senate majorities agreed to extend the session until July 31, the new budget should be approved before July 1, when the new fiscal year begins.

Soto said yesterday that the request to deliver the message outside the Capitol was properly filed to the Legislative Assembly. However, the New Progressive Party (PNP) representatives indicated that both the House and Senate should have passed a resolution.

However, in a letter, House Speaker Carlos “Johnny” Méndez confirmed that he “granted” the request to the governor.

After the claims arose, Senate President Thomas Rivera Schatz called for a Special Total Commission in the Senate.

Popular Democratic Party (PDP) President Aníbal José Torres announced he would file a complaint against the governor for allegedly “violating” the electoral ban by turning her address into a “message of achievement.”

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