Gov. Ricardo Rosselló will present a $9.6 billion budget for Fiscal 2020 to the Legislature that defies the Financial Oversight and Management Board for Puerto Rico’s proposal, which is $500 million lower.
During his Budget Address delivered in Ponce, Rosselló said the budget is “based on a new methodology, in which results can be measured in the allocation of resources, giving greater visibility to the administration of public funds.”
“The new budget seeks to incorporate substantial improvements in Puerto Rico’s fiscal position, establishing clear priorities that are fiscally sustainable,” he said.
“At the same time, the budget meets our objective of investing in initiatives that improve the quality of life of citizens and stimulate the maximum economic development possible in our island,” he said.
In his address, Rosselló focused on three areas:
- Police and public safety: Resources are allocated in the integration of the Department of Public Safety, for salaries, payment of social security and modernizing police equipment. The plan is to invest $500 million in the next four years in this area, he said.
- Education: The goal is to invest between 4% and 5% of Puerto Rico’s GDP in education. He said the administration planned to invest $400 million for the next fiscal year, but the Oversight Board rejected it, so the administration had to reduce the amount to $262 million. The investment is directed to special education, transportation, educational vouchers, teacher salaries, social security payments, restructuring of the agency and funds allocated for college scholarships, among other needs.
- Health: The allocations are aimed at achieving the objective of guaranteeing medical options for the population through the VITAL Plan and maintaining the quality of the services. In addition to this, the proposed budget takes away the Pay-Go and ASES payment responsibilities from the municipalities and shifts it to the central government.
He went on to outline all of the steps his administration has taken since taking office. He also aimed his guns to the Oversight Board, criticizing it repeatedly for “obstructing” his administration’s work.
“I will show you that the Financial Oversight and Management Board has obstructed the work for the benefit of Puerto Ricans; disappeared at critical moments, such as hurricanes, to then provoke more bureaucracy and seek to impose unjust measures against the most vulnerable, based on economic projections and incorrect data,” he said.
“The Board, with an operational budget of public funds that has exceeded $60 million per year, has not been able to fulfill its responsibility to justify its requirements to the government. Their economic projections have distanced themselves far from the real behavior of the economy and the income of the State, sometimes by billions of dollars,” Rosselló added.
Rosselló also noted that from the $300 million available in the government’s coffers in January 2019, now the government has $6 billion available as a result of “economies and efficiencies in government operation.”
“Some detractors will argue that this is because the debt is not being paid. We clarify to them that, precisely due to economies that have no precedent in our history, we can restructure the debt to sustainable levels, comply with our retirees, and provide services to the people,” he said.