March 7, 2021

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Surrounded by controversy and amid economic promises, Vázquez Garced offered her first State Message

It has come under fire for carrying it out at the Fine Arts Center in Santurce, and not on Capitol Hill.

Governor Wanda Vázquez Garced today gives her first State message from the Fine Arts Center in Santurce.

Photo: Juan R. Costa

Later than the provisions of the Constitution of the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico and amid the pandemic of the coronavirus COVID-19, Governor Wanda Vázquez Garced is preparing to offer her first State Situation Message amidst controversies over the legality of the selected location.

The meeting took place at the Fine Arts Center in Santurce, which has remained closed due to the emergency and it was not until last week its reopening was announced with measures of social distancing and hygiene. According to the La Fortaleza Press Office, the message will take place in the Antonio Paoli festival hall, which has a capacity of 1,900 seats, of which 30 percent will be used.

Vázquez Garced will present an incompatible budget with the proposal of the Fiscal Control Board (JCF), according to the executive director of the financial entity, Natalie Jaresko, since it will be $ 169 million higher and includes a Christmas bonus and a salary increase for public employees.

The First Executive, according to Jaresko, will also propose a budget increase for the State Elections Commission (CEE).

Among the viewers of the message, as NotiCel had anticipated that it could happen, is Rear Admiral Peter J. Brown, coordinator of the White House in the reconstruction efforts of Puerto Rico, who is visiting the Island with other federal officials to supervise the preparations for the hurricane season.

The message is not without controversy, because in addition to being the first delivered by a ruler who was not elected by the people, it has had the opposition of members within the New Progressive Party (PNP) and political-partisan minorities, because it will not take place in the House of Representatives chamber, on Capitol Hill.

According to Article 4 of the Constitution, among the duties of the First Executive is to “present to the Legislative Assembly, at the beginning of each ordinary session, a message on the situation of the State and also submit a report on the conditions of the Treasury of Puerto Rico and the proposed disbursements for the following financial year. ”

In a press release, Vázquez indicated that last week she sent a letter to the president of the House of Representatives, Carlos “Johnny” Méndez Núñez, to inform him that the message would not be in the chamber of the said legislative body by the li space myth. Said petition, she reported, was accepted by the Cameral President.

“I understand that the Constitution requires that the message be offered at the Capitol, pursuant to Articles IV, III, I, as it is the seat of the Legislative Assembly in said building. However, in the spirit of maintaining social distancing by COVID-19 and that important and essential matters for the people of Puerto Rico do not deviate from public opinion, we grant your request, “read the letter sent by Méndez Núñez to Vázquez Garced.

This morning, President cameral announced that he would attend the message. Shortly afterward, the president of the Popular Democratic Party (PPD), Aníbal José Torres Torres, filed a complaint against the Governor before the EEC for violating the Electoral Code.

Last year, then-Governor Ricardo Rosselló Nevares offered his message in the Fair Complex, in Ponce, due to efforts to rebuild the roof of the Chamber’s chamber, but the change of place had the endorsement of said body.

As for the date, the most recent messages —offered by Rosselló Nevares— occurred between March and April. The COVID-19 pandemic, on the other hand, caused a national closure since mid-March, which caused a postponement of all kinds of activity.

The Constitution establishes that the report must contain “the data necessary for the formulation of a program of legislation ”, but the Legislative Assembly has been evaluating budget projects since the beginning of the week. education, health, and economic development, among others, in addition to a budget of $ 10,214 million, and a consolidated budget of $ 28,234 million.

The budget allocates $ 6,288 million for government operations, representing a reduction of $ 145 million compared to the previous budget.

During the massage, which the first executive offered in the Antonio Paoli Room of the Santurce Fine Arts Center before the Senate and The House of Representatives highlighted the difficult situations that Puerto Rico has gone through since the beginning of the year, with the earthquakes that have affected our island and the COVID-19 pandemic, which has caused that “everything has changed”, and recalled that following From this health emergency, in May $ 2.2 billion was received by the federal government under the CARES ACT initiative, which, added to state funds, $ 3.1 billion in aid has been disbursed to our people from April to the present.

Regarding the budget, the governor indicated that she gives priority to guarantee the payment of pensions and that, despite the fact that the Fiscal Oversight Board did not include budgeted benefits for public employees, “I reaffirm that I will defend them. I reaffirm that it is up to the government of all Puerto Ricans to decide the public policy to be implemented. As a result of our leadership, we were able to postpone the vast majority of the cuts and embrace several of our proposals that seek a fairer redistribution of resources, the end result of the negotiations, we are not pleased. There are areas such as security and social welfare that deserve more consideration in the allocation of the budget, and I assure you that we will continue to fight for them, “said Vázquez Garced in written communications.

Likewise, the first executive reiterated that the annual adjustment of the increase in the cost of living that public servants receive at Christmas, known as the Christmas bonus, will be a reality, despite the fact that said item was eliminated by the Fiscal Oversight Board.

“Today I reiterate that I will not change My position, I advance that we will identify the savings so that public workers receive their Christmas bonus, “she clarified.

On the subject of education, she detailed several items that were assigned to the Department of Education, with an additional allocation of $176 million and 1,732 education workers are granted permanence, in addition to the beginning of a “labor justice process” to grant the first 400 permanence to attendees of special education services, known as T1.

As part of the new reality, the governor indicated that it is necessary to invest in technological resources so that we develop new learning models such as distance education, so in July they will deliver computers with internet access to each student and teacher in the public system. Likewise, fourth-year students from public and private schools who have enrolled in a post-secondary institution will be granted an incentive of $1,000 to purchase technological equipment.

This innovation in the educational system, the governor stressed that education will be promoted through the Internet and through WIPR, which “becomes the primary instrument and forum to communicate, inform and educate the people”, so “I have remained and will remain firm in defense of the WIPR “and urged everyone to unite to protect this cultural heritage.

” I invite artists, employees, and all of us who believe in WIPR to defend it by creating new legislation with more powers and more flexibility in its management. to generate their own income, while preserving their assets in the hands of the people, “said Vázquez Garced.

As for the University of Puerto Rico (UPR), he said that” it is our main educational asset I go and we have to protect and defend it, ”which means that the increase in enrollment and fees scheduled for the new academic year is null and void, assigning an additional amount of $ 55 million to correct the impact of COVID-19, in addition to $ 20 million for implement the Classification and Remuneration Plan for non-teaching personnel, among other measures.

Another issue was health, which is “an accessible and equitable one”, for which reason it announced that they have expanded the base of the Plan’s coverage. Vital to include 200,000 Puerto Ricans who do not have a medical plan today. “

” There is no reason for our fathers, mothers, grandparents, and grandmothers to have our beloved old men have to plead with an insurance company to authorize their medications and treatments. clinicians. This is unacceptable, “said the governor.

She added:” The times when doctors have to wait months to pay them a bill are over. Hospitalization time is determined by the doctor, not the insurer. The patient’s medication is determined by the doctor, not the insurer. Treatments and studies for different conditions are determined by the doctor, not the insurer. Graduate physicians do not have to wait for months to be on a provider list. If we want to retain our health professionals, doctors, technologists, nurses, and that our people receive the best services. ”

When taking care of patients, she asked the legislative presidents to create a joint commission to attend to this matter and that it will convene an extraordinary session to attend to this and other matters.

Likewise, it reminded insurers of their responsibility to assume the costs of the COVID FEE, as well as the payment of any expenses incurred by related health professionals to personal protection.

Regarding economic development, he indicated that he is working to attract new investment in the manufacturing and pharmaceutical areas, with the creation of a working group in conjunction with the resident commissioner, Jenniffer González, supporting the project HR 6443 and its initiatives in favor of economic development on an equal footing with other states.

Likewise, in terms of tourism, He announced that the annual convention of the Florida and Caribbean Cruise Association will be held in October, in addition to 36 new tourism projects for an investment of over $1 billion that will be injected into the economy.

The governor also highlighted that in terms of housing, several projects are already under construction that will impact 935 families with the construction of 900 housing units, with an investment of $279 million in the economy and the stability of families who need a home.

Regarding the R3 projects, she said that “excuses were more than enough and were unacceptable”, so she ordered to start the construction and reconstruction of homes affected by Hurricanes Irma and Maria so that there are no more blue tarps, so they will be beginning to work in 300 to 400 housing units monthly throughout Puerto Rico.

As an example, the house under construction by Aida Ortiz from the Santa Olaya neighborhood was presented in Bayamón, who lost her home during the passage of Hurricane María.

Likewise, she expressed that $350 million was set aside for a new buyer assistance program, whereas of July 15, and giving priority to the police, nurses, firefighters, and emergency management personnel who will purchase a home as their primary residence will have the opportunity to receive up to $40,000 as a contribution or subsidy.

“This is one more example of our commitment to prioritizing these first responders”, the governor pointed out.

As part of the economic development agenda, she announced the ReGrow program to grant a subsidy of up to $150 thousand to bonafide farmers, which they can apply from the second week of August.

Governor stressed the need to address the issue of status “because it not only serves the economic future but also the well-being of our citizens,” according to his written statements. itas.

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