President Obama’s designation of seven members of the Puerto Rico Fiscal Oversight Board, made in consultation with Republican and Democratic leadership in Congress, was met with support on Capitol Hill and beyond.
“The collective experience and expertise of the Board Members in the areas of restructuring, economic development, and fiscal governance will provide critical assistance and oversight to Puerto Rico in this difficult time. I encourage the Board to begin its work helping the people of Puerto Rico right away,” said Secretary of the Treasury Jacob J. Lew
“Congress has provided the Oversight Board with important tools that will be essential to stabilize the fiscal situation and restore growth. It is also vital that the Oversight Board engage all of Puerto Rico’s stakeholders to build a better future for Puerto Rico,” he said.
He said the government of Puerto Rico, which retains primary responsibility for its budget and fiscal planning, must develop a multi-year fiscal plan for Puerto Rico that meets the statutory obligations under PROMESA.
“Time is of the essence. The Puerto Rico government should bring together all of its resources to develop and submit a plan to the Oversight Board as soon as possible,” he said. “We stand ready to provide any additional requested technical assistance to Puerto Rico and the Board. While the road ahead will be challenging, I am confident that Puerto Rico can and will emerge from the current crisis and return to growth.”
Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi, meanwhile, said, “With President Obama’s timely appointment of candidates recommended by leaders in Congress, the oversight board now begins the hard work of restructuring Puerto Rico’s unsustainable debt burden. It is essential that the board work in a collaborative and constructive manner to help our fellow Americans in Puerto Rico successfully emerge from this crisis.”
“Congress must now focus its attention on helping the people of Puerto Rico by addressing disparities in federal health care programs and spurring economic growth through the extension of the earned income tax credit to the island,” she added.
Rep. Nydia M. Velázquez (D-NY), who lobbied hard for Puerto Rico during the enactment of the Puerto Rico Oversight, Management and Economic Stability Act that created the board, commended Obama for moving “forward expeditiously with this step.”
“It is my hope and expectation that this panel acts quickly in empowering Puerto Rico to restructure its debt and formulating a plan that puts the island on a sounder financial footing,” she said.
“I anticipate this entity will listen carefully to the views of all stakeholders, while holding paramount the needs of the Puerto Rican people. While tough choices must be made, I am confident we can find positive solutions for the island, while holding harmless Puerto Rico’s pensioners, children, working families and most vulnerable residents,” she added.
The newly appointed board members are: Andrew G. Biggs, Jose B. Carrión III, Carlos M. García, Arthur J. González, José R. González, Ana J. Matosantos, and David A. Skeel Jr.
Puerto Rico’s Resident Commissioner in Washington, Pedro Pierluisi noted that the next step is for the Oversight Board to appoint an executive director and professional staff, consistent with Section 103 of PROMESA.
“PROMESA is among the most important pieces of legislation that Congress has ever enacted on the subject of Puerto Rico. If the Oversight Board, its professional staff, Puerto Rico’s elected leaders, the island’s creditors, and our private sector professionals work together in a spirit of cooperation, I believe that — acting within PROMESA’s framework — we can begin to turn our beloved island around, to improve quality of life for our people, and to stem the tide of migration to the states,” he said.
“Success will require hard work and sacrifice. But nothing truly worth doing in life is ever easy,” he added.
Among other things, the board will work with Puerto Rico’s creditors to restructure the $68 billion in outstanding public debt.
“We are pleased that the Oversight Board members have been selected and look forward to working constructively with them to address the larger fiscal and structural causes at the root of Puerto Rico’s financial problems,” said Stephen Spencer, financial advisor to Puerto Rico creditors, specifically a group holding Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority debt.
“We continue to believe that an open dialogue and inclusive approach with creditors is the best path to achieving what is in all our best interests: an economically growing Puerto Rico on a road to long-term prosperity,” Spencer added.