Puerto Rico Gov. Wanda Vázquez announced a proposed $10.2 billion budget for the Commonwealth’s General Fund for Fiscal Year 2021.
In her State of the Commonwealth and Budget address, she also proposed a consolidated budget of $28.2 billion that includes funds generated by a number of public agencies for the fiscal year that begins July 1.
Vázquez delivered her speech from the Centro de Bellas Artes Performing Arts Center, surrounded by lawmakers and political supporters who applauded during her remarks that also covered issues related to education, health, and economic development, among others.
The budget earmarks $6.3 billion for government operations, representing a reduction of $145 million compared to the previous budget.
The key takeaways from her budget speech include:
- Assigning $176 million to the Education Department, and granting permanent job status to 1,732 education workers, and 400 special education assistants, known as T1;
- Paying the Christmas bonus to public workers, against what the Financial Oversight and Management Board for Puerto Rico has established;
- Guaranteeing pension payments, another sore point with the Board;
- Distributing computers to public school students and teachers, and a $1,000 incentive to recently graduated public and private students enrolled in a post-secondary institution, so they can buy equipment;
- $55 million in additional funds to the University of Puerto Rico to compensate for the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. The proposed budget also assigns $20 million to implement the Classification and Remuneration Plan for non-teaching staff;
- Expanding the footprint of the government’s public health plan, “Plan Vital,” to provide coverage to 200,000 additional island residents who currently do not have a health plan;
- Working with Congress to pass House Resolution 6443 to bring back manufacturing and pharmaceutical operations to Puerto Rico;
- Hosting this year’s Florida-Caribbean Cruise Association’s annual convention in October, and promoting 36 tourism development projects in Puerto Rico, which she said represent more than $1 million in investments;
- Earmarking $350 million for a new program to help future homebuyers, which starting July 15 will give priority to police officers, nurses, firefighters and emergency management personnel. They are eligible to receive up to $40,000 as a subsidy for the purchase of their principal home;
- The “ReGrow” initiative to offer farmers an incentive of up to $150,000, which they can apply for on an individual basis after the second week of August;
- $122 million to pay overtime hours owed to police officers and $17 million for salary increases; and,
- Setting aside $15 billion in federal funds and private investments to strengthen the island’s power grid.
Last week, the Oversight Board submitted to the Puerto Rico Legislature its $10 billion proposed General Fund budget for the government’s day-to-day operations. Lawmakers will now have to review both, leading up to a June 30 certification of the budget that will be in effect for the next 12 months.