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MIDA Gets Serious About Legislative Reform

Cordero Badillo Says Halving Number Of Legislators Could Save Taxpayers $90 Million


August 21, 2003
Copyright © 2003 CARIBBEAN BUSINESS. All Rights Reserved.

At its convention last month, the Chamber of the Food Marketing & Distribution Industry (MIDA by its Spanish acronym) announced its resolve to require the government to make significant changes in an effort to save money and cut red tape.

MIDA President Atilano Cordero Badillo is forming a coalition of various local associations to put more pressure on the government. The first steps will be to work at halving the number of senators and representatives, making legislative positions part-time, getting rid of the pork barrels, and eliminating fringe benefits such as chauffeured cars and per diems. "If this is done, we will be able to save taxpayers $90 million in one shot," said Cordero Badillo.

"We demand the three political parties include this resolution in their platforms," he added. "We will campaign against any politician who doesn’t adopt this resolution. Politicians must stop placing more importance on their political party than on the people of Puerto Rico." Cordero Badillo said the issue must be taken up during the first assembly of the next legislative session.

"There are a minimum of 78 legislators right now, and each one is costing taxpayers about 100,000. Do you know that 83% of the Legislature’s budget goes to cover administrative expenses and only 17% goes to permanent works?" said Cordero Badillo. "To make matters worse, most people don’t even know who the legislators are! We conducted an informal survey of 200 people and asked them to name the legislators representing their municipality. None of them knew—absolutely none.

"We need to make the government more efficient and have it invest taxpayers’ money where it is needed, not on superfluous expenses such as pork barrels and per diems," continued Cordero Badillo.

He proposes that legislators work only part-time, which he said would require an amendment to Puerto Rico’s constitution, and that they use their own cars for work and receive payment only for the mileage recorded while on the job. Only the presidents of the House and Senate should work full-time. "This is the only way being a legislator will become an honorable position again, because they will work for the people instead of having the people work for them," said Cordero Badillo.

He said the ideal legislator would be like many businesspeople that hold senior positions in professional organizations, receiving no payment for their service. "I’m the president of MIDA, but MIDA doesn’t pay me a salary. Still, I am working hard to improve things," said Cordero Badillo. "Presidents of other associations don’t receive salaries either. This is the way legislators should work, too.

"Pork barrels to legislators are costing taxpayers $104 million a year and the majority of legislators have no idea how to prioritize the uses for this money," continued Cordero Badillo, who explained that pork barrels are funds assigned to each legislator to invest in his or her region. "Instead of investing this money to help the people, they are just using it to gain votes. They shouldn’t be using these funds to give away refrigerators and television sets. They must use this for long-term economic development—to build hospitals, for example."

Cordero Badillo said MIDA is forming a coalition of associations such as the United Retailers Association, Industriales del Pan, the Association of Community Pharmacies, and the Association of Farmers. The association hopes all local organizations will unite to further this legislative reform.

This Caribbean Business article appears courtesy of Casiano Communications.
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