In addition, it was agreed to allocate about $90 million to pay the salaries of employees of the Electric Power Authority who do not want to go to work with LUMA Energy.
Yesterday, the House of Representatives Finance Committee approved a new budget for the upcoming fiscal year 2021-2022, with the same total recommended by the Financial Supervisory Board (JSF), but with changes in the distribution of funds that will lead to increases. For the University of Puerto Rico (UPR), the Medical Sciences campus and in funds to pay for school and highway maintenance contracts with the country’s municipalities.
The measure, which has yet to pass to the full, was approved in committee by 10 votes, two against, and three abstentions, as People’s Democratic Party (PPD) deputies contributed votes in favor of a budget loaded of $10,111,870,000. on the public account. The NPP delegation abstained from voting after claiming that it did not have time to evaluate the amendments.
The additional funds for the University of Puerto Rico arise from the abolition of the UPR Scholarship Fund, which is under Treasury trusteeship and containing an unused balance of budget allocations from prior years and its replacement with a new UPR Endowment Fund.
According to the explanation provided by the Chair of the Commission, Jesus Santa, the UPR will receive an additional $163 million in this new endowment fund and can be used for research, scholarship fund, infrastructure and investment. .
“Currently there is $116 million coming from an appropriation in the custody of the Treasury, which was originally a little more than $200 million to cover the debts of the Highway Authority, so we were allowed to withdraw that amount,” he said. Others come from funds, also in the custody of the Treasury, which are earmarked for the UPR, but the Foundation has not had access to them.
According to Santa, a new working group will be created between the UPR, the Treasury, the Office of the Director of Finance, the Puerto Rican Finance Agency, the Financial Advisory Authority (AAFAF), and the Financial Oversight Board (JSF) in order to develop standards, compliance requirements, and financial oversight for these funds being allocated to the university.
An amount of $70 million has also been added to the budget to cover the proposed contracts for municipalities to undertake the maintenance of schools and roads.
These, in turn, come from maintenance funds earmarked for the Department of Education (DE) and the Department of Transportation and Public Works (DTOP), for the upkeep of schools, roads and parks. The legislator said, “Most of these accounts were in the budget, and there is legislation in place in the House of Representatives so that municipalities are given priority in employment.”
The increase for the medical sciences campus is $15.2 million and is intended to pay the salaries of resident doctors. This money comes from a surplus of $8.3 million over prior years on the Puerto Rican Department of Medical Services (ASEM) professional services payroll and another $6.9 million also from health department salary surpluses.
The legislator explained that in the sum of these three points there are about 222.2 million dollars.
$90 million for those who left PREPA
Santa also announced an agreement with the Office of Management and Budget (OGP) to allocate about $90 million to pay PREPA employees who do not want to go to work with LUMA Energy. Neither of them benefited from the incentive retirement program offered by the public corporation. It has been reallocated to other government agencies, many of which do not have the budget to absorb these new employees.
He said the funds to be used for these purposes will come from reductions in capital improvement provisions from various agencies and will go into the custody and control of the Treasury.
The legislator expressed his confidence in replacing these funds with federal funds, so that the improvement projects that had previously been deprived of these resources would not be affected.
After the House plenary approves this revised budget, it will go to the Senate for consideration and possible amendments.
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