Puerto Rico Oversight Board presses governor to comply

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The Puerto Rico Oversight Board and Gov. Ricardo Rosselló are struggling over the governor’s compliance with the board’s fiscal plan and approved budget.

The board sent a letter to the governor Monday saying that unless he starts following the board’s demands immediately it would have to “take action to enforce compliance,” apparently referring to a lawsuit.

On Tuesday the governor’s non-voting representative to the board, Christian Sobrino Vega, released a statement saying the governor’s administration disagreed with the board and would release a more detailed response later this week.

“Recall the numerous instances where the Oversight Board has proven not to have a perfect criterion,” Sobrino Vega said. “This is one of them.”

In the board’s letter to the governor, it said the governor wasn’t following three requirements of the Puerto Rico Oversight, Management, and Economic Stability Act.

First, the board said section 204(b)(4) required that certain proposed rules, regulations, and executive orders from the governor must be reviewed first by the board for consistency with the fiscal plan.

“In the last month, you have signed three executive orders … that pertain to employee compensation or benefits, and therefore are subject to the policy,” the board wrote. “Moreover, each of these executive orders increased employee compensation or benefits.” In none of the cases did the governor seek prior approval from the board, the board said.

Second, the board complained that Rosselló had failed to meet a requirement to submit, no later than seven days after laws are approved, an estimation of their impact on revenues and expenditures, and a statement as to their consistency with the fiscal plan.

Since late August the governor has enacted nearly 100 laws and none of them have been submitted to the board, the board stated.

Third and finally, section 203(a) requires the governor to provide, no later than 15 days after the end of each quarter, a report describing how actual revenue and spending have diverged from the budgeted numbers and any other information the board requests. The board claims that this hasn’t been happening for the central government, electric power authority, aqueduct and sewer authority, University of Puerto Rico, or the highways and transportation authority.

“These mandates in PROMESA are not optional,” the board wrote. “The Oversight Board ask you to comply with each of them immediately so that the Oversight Board does not have to take action to enforce compliance.”

Sobrino Vega responded, "We are evaluating the Oversight Board’s allegations in its letter and we will be meeting with the Secretary of the Treasury and other government officials to prepare a formal response to the Oversight Board letter this week. However, we anticipate that we disagree with the board's assessment.

“The government has followed the guidelines issued by the entity when publishing the balance of government accounts and other related reports. In addition, submitting the laws and other administrative documentation of the government for the prior evaluation of the board would render the government inoperative given the amount of administrative determinations that are made daily and that is not the purpose" of PROMESA.

According to the El Vocero news web site, Sobrino Vega in responding orally to the board’s letter, described the board as “five cats in Hato Rey,” referring to the San Juan neighborhood where the board has its Puerto Rico office.

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PROMESA Commonwealth of Puerto Rico Puerto Rico Aqueduct & Sewer Authority Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority Puerto Rico Highway & Transportation Authority University of Puerto Rico Puerto Rico Infrastructure Financial Authority Puerto Rico