The president of the House of Representatives, Carlos “Johnny” Méndez maintained this Sunday that he will not back down on the budget version that they approved last week and that, contrary to the proposal presented by Governor Wanda Vázquez Garced, has the backing of the Fiscal Oversight Board (JSF).
"I anticipate it, the House is not going to move, because for the first time we are working on a budget where the Board has expressed … aligned with the fiscal plan of the government of Puerto Rico "declared the leader cameral.
The House of Representatives approved last week its version of budget for the next fiscal year of $ 10,045 million, representing a reduction of $ 169 million compared to the proposal of $ 10,124 million presented to the country by Vázquez Garced and which received the support of the Senate. However, finally the Senate later accepted, with amendments, the substitute initially approved by the House, a body that by constitutional provision originates the fiscal measures.
Méndez said that today they will form the conference committee in process of discussing differences. "The Board says that the budget that the House approved is aligned to what the fiscal plan is and, obviously, that is the starting point of the discussion in the conference committee and we will maintain our position. What we work includes, precisely, part of what the governor expressed in her message but did not include in the budget, "said Méndez.
The differences identified between the two budgets revolved, mainly around five issues: money for the State Election Commission (CEE), the operational budget of WIPR-TV, the purchase of Parametric insurance in the government, the Christmas Bonus for public employees and the Remuneration Plan for public employees according to the Law of the Single Employer .
"Failure to approve the budget that the Chamber worked would throw all that down because there is already a commitment and would also cause the Board to approve its own budget that will not include the Christmas bonus, it will not include the safeguards we include for WIPR. Nor is it going to include the money for the classification and retribution plan… to move away from that sincerely will be disastrous for Puerto Rico, "insisted Méndez.
The president of the cameral Commission of Finance, Antonio Soto, explained that the biggest difference between both versions falls on the start date and scope of the classification and compensation plan for public employees. The Chamber's proposal is that the program start in January 2021 and initially impact 70% of workers, specifically those in the first line of response. This proposal would have an impact of $ 29 million to the General Fund.
Meanwhile, the Senate sets the beginning of the classification and remuneration plan for October 1, impacting 100% of public employees. This will cost $ 57 million to the General Fund. "We in the Chamber are not going to be able to concur with the amendments that the Senate incorporated into the measure," said Soto, indicating that he already had communication with the chief of staff of the President of the Senate, Thomas Rivera Schatz, with whom he has scheduled a meeting for tomorrow, Monday, at 9:00 am, in the process of harmonizing a version that is certifiable by the JSF.
Soto indicated that postponing for January the start of the classification and remuneration plan would allow them to comply with the realization of an analysis of uniform evaluation by merits and performance of public servants. "That it is not an increase on a whim, but rather an increase on your merits … that process has to be designed and implemented," he said of the requirement imposed by the federal entity to allow the wage increase.
"It would be a budget with the public policy of the government of Puerto Rico and not with a public policy imposed by the Fiscal Oversight Board. Our call is that we work together to harmonize both budgets. The House version has already confirmed that the JSF would endorse it, so I think we should stay in that direction, "said Soto.
The spokesman for the New Progressive Party (PNP) in the Senate, Carmelo Ríos, acknowledged the opportunity to have "the first budget endorsed" by the Board under the Promise Law, although it maintained that "that does not mean, under any circumstances, that the Board has the last word for the purposes of what we We believe in the Senate, but we are aware that they are there. ”