Fortuño Calls AAVs Budget Cuts "Unrealistic" UT Should Soon Operate Every Day PDP Wants Constitutional Assembly In Senate Bill 180 Soldiers Leaving For Iraq Duty $70m Approved For PLA AAA Doesnt Rule Out Rate Hike Glaxo Slides On FDA Factory Probe Fears AAV Warns On Budget, If Cuts Arent OKd, Others Must Be Found House Passes Substitute Status Bill
Fortuño Calls Governors Budget Cuts "Unrealistic"
March 21, 2005
SAN JUAN (AP) Resident Commissioner Luis Fortuño said Monday that the budget cuts presented by Gov. Anibal Acevedo Vila "are not realistic" and will not resolve the current deficit, thought to be more than $1 billion.
"It is not sufficient because he is not presenting realistic cuts in the promotion of the government, which spends about $120 million per term unnecessarily," Fortuño said in a radio interview.
He said the people have to demand that the government and the Legislative Assembly "get their act together and live within the budget."
Fortuño said that there are necessary adjustments to be made and measures to be taken that have been lacking so more taxes are not imposed on Puerto Ricans.
Urban Train Should Operate Every Day Starting In Mid-April
March 21, 2005
SAN JUAN (AP) The Urban Train could be offering free services seven days a week by the middle of April, in coordination with the Metropolitan Bus Authority.
It is projected that by the end of April, regular user fees will start to be collected, said Gabriel Alcaraz, the designated secretary for the Transportation and Public Works Department.
Alcaraz said that public "porteadores" will be integrated at a later date that has still not been established. The Urban Trains will operate between 5:30 a.m. and 9 p.m., starting in the middle of the month .
"We are in talks with the federal government, we are organizing for the end of April and we are in the process of arranging the calendar with them," Alcaraz said.
PDP Wants Constitutional Assembly Included In Senate Version Of Bill
By MANUEL ERNESTO RIVERA
March 21, 2005
SAN JUAN (AP) The Popular Democratic delegation in the Senate proposed Monday that the substitute status bill approved by the House of Representatives be amended to include the Constitutional Assembly on status in the Senate version.
After a meeting of PDP senators, the delegations spokesman, Jose Luis Dalmau, also asked that they hold public hearings about the final version of the bill.
The amendment proposed by the senators reads: "past the 90 days after the completion of the deadline and Congress does not react, or if it declines before the deadline, a public vote will be held to demand of the delegates the Constitutional Status Assembly, which will begin not later than six months after it is held."
The request for public hearings was made in letters Dalmau sent to Senate President Kenneth McClintock, and Sen. José Garriga Picó, who is president of the Federal Affairs Committee.
Another 180 PR Soldiers Will Leave For Duty In Iraq
March 20, 2005
SAN JUAN (AP) - Some 180 Puerto Rican National Guard soldiers will leave the island Monday for eventual duty in Iraq, officials said Saturday.
The soldiers will arrive in Fort Stuart in Georgia on Monday and leave for Iraq in May, said Millie Rosa, a National Guard spokeswoman.
"For the great majority of these citizens, it will be their first deployment," Rosa said.
The soldiers, who belong to the C/1-295 Task Force, said goodbye to their families Saturday.
About 1,800 Puerto Ricans soldiers are stationed in Iraq, Kuwait, Afghanistan and Bosnia. At least 25 Puerto Ricans have been killed in Iraq or Afghanistan.
$70 Million Approved For Puerto De Las Americas
March 19, 2005
PONCE (AP) The board of directors of the Government Development Bank (GDB) unanimously approved an allocation of $70 million that will allow the development of the Puerto de las Americas project to continue according to the original plans.
"The board approved it unanimously," bank president William Lockwood said on Friday.
"The Puerto de las Americas is going to issue some bonds that the GDB is going to buy for $70 million to continue with development of the port," he said.
Ponce Mayor Francisco Zayas Seijo said the GDB will make a charge of the $40 million debt his city incurred to begin work on converting the citys port into the Las Americas megaport.
Water Company Chief Doesnt Rule Out Rate Hike
March 19, 2005
AGUADILLA (AP) The executive director of the Aqueduct and Sewer Authority, Jorge Rodriguez, said Friday that the possibility exists of raising the water rate, but he will not make a final decision until he receives information from a special committee.
"There is a reality to this possibility," Rodriguez said. The report from the committee should be ready in 20 to 30 days, he said.
"I am not in a position to say what amount it would rise, when I am waiting for a report," he said, after repeated questions from the press.
After meeting with mayors and city representatives for the western region, Rodriguez said he was taking several steps to face the imminent elimination of $400 million in government subsidies.
Glaxo Slides On Fears Of Deeper FDA Factory Probe
March 18, 2005
LONDON, March 18 (Reuters) - Shares in GlaxoSmithKline Plc (GSK.L) fell 2 percent on Friday on fears that Europe's biggest drugmaker could face a deeper probe into manufacturing irregularities at its Cidra plant in Puerto Rico.
Reuters reported late on Thursday that the facility could be placed under a formal "consent decree" by U.S. regulators, although this was not yet being discussed.
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) seized supplies of antidepressant Paxil CR and diabetes medicine Avandamet made at the factory on March 4 because of quality problems.
"A consent decree is an option for the FDA and typically an issue of this sort could be resolved in this way," company spokesman Phil Thomson said on Thursday. "But at the moment we are not in discussions with them about that."
Resolving any consent decree could involve a fine and would place additional requirements on GSK in terms of the upgrades needed to its manufacturing procedures.
Shares in GSK were 25 pence lower at 12.22 pounds by 0855 GMT.
Governor Warns He Will Not Sign Budget With Hidden Loans, Lines Of Credit
March 18, 2005
SAN JUAN (AP) Gov. Anibal Acevedo Vila warned Friday that he will not approve a budget approved by the Legislature that does not clearly establish where the funds will come from to cover expenses.
Acevedo Vila said that he left behind his ministerial responsibility to present a balanced budget that attends to the needs of the Puerto Rican people.
"What should be clear is that I am not going to allow balanced budgets with secret lines of credit, balanced budgets with open or hidden loans for operational expenses," the governor said.
He added that he will not approve a budget that proposes salary increases "if the money is not assigned."
The governor was reacting to the warning by the majority New Progressive Party in the Legislature, which will not approve the budget recommended by Acevedo Vila because they say it imposes too many taxes on Puerto Ricans.
If Budget Cuts Arent Approved, Similar Cuts Must Be Found, Budget Director Says
March 18, 2005
SAN JUAN (AP) The Office of Management and Budget (OMB) warned that if the Legislature decides not to approve some of the budget measures of Gov. Anibal Acevedo Vila or does not repeal some of the exemptions of the excise tax, without presenting other options, it could cause the loss of public professional jobs.
The New Progressive majority announced late Thursday that it will not approve the budget suggested by the governor, because it imposes too many taxes on citizens.
"If they push it to the side, they have to find areas to cut this money. If the elimination of the 35 exemptions is not approved, they have to look for $630 million that forms the budget based by the party," the designated OMB director, Ileana Fas Pacheco, said in media reports.
Fas Pacheco insisted that if there was a reduction in expenses, it would have to be from the payroll, "because the government couldnt stand cuts in other parts."
House Approves Substitute Status Bill
March 18, 2005
SAN JUAN (AP) The House of Representatives on Thursday approved the substitute status bill, so voters will decide yes or no on July 10 to the option of asking the president and U.S. Congress to commit to resolving the islands political future.
The measure had the votes of the New Progressive majority, independentista Victor Garcia San Inocencio, and Popular Democratic Party (PDP) members Hector Ferrer and Carlos Vizcarrondo. Nine PDP representatives voted against it.
The fight among the PDPs surged Tuesday after minority spokesman Ferrer participated in a press conference with legislators from the other parties to endorse the substitute bill, which leaves out the process of Constitutional Assembly promoted by the Popular Democratic Party and Gov. Anibal Acevedo Vila.
It is expected that the Senate will approve a similar version Monday or Tuesday.