Fortuño: Tax Hikes Not The Answer… Budget Cut Dangers Cited… Villalba To Implement City Tax… Smoother Tax Reform Proposed… Demonstrators Support Soldier… Orange Targets Latin Markets… Sup Ct Rejects AAV Petition… Garriga Pico Backs Rossello… Sanctions vs PDP Reps Rejected… Carmona To Visit Ponce Medical School… Vassallo Chooses VA Tech

Fortuño: Tax Hikes Aren't The Answer

May 23, 2005
Copyright © 2005 EFE. All rights reserved. 

SAN JUAN (EFE) — Resident Commissioner Luis Fortuño on Monday said the budget for fiscal year 2005-06 shouldn’t be fixed with tax increases on island residents.

Fortuño said Gov. Anibal Acevedo Vila’s proposed budget has increased by more than $900 million.

"We are spending more than we earn. We can’t expect to solve the deficit at the expense of the Puerto Rican people," Fortuño said during a press conference at the San Felipe Castle of El Morro in San Juan.

Fortuño added he was surprised to see that no one gave the order to halt government expenditures during the first five months of this administration.

The Resident Commissioner said current government expenses have become unmanageable. He also criticized the use of professional contracts, unnecessary campaigns, and new vehicles at several government agencies.

Analyst Warns Of Dangers Of Proposed Budget Cut

May 23, 2005
Copyright © 2005 EFE. All rights reserved. 

SAN JUAN (EFE) — Because of its double function as buyer and investor, the government is the single most important component of economic system, which is why it is imperative that legislative and executive leaders agree on a budget that meets the financial needs of the island, said Luis Benitez, president of the Puerto Rico Economists Association.

Benitez–who co-chaired the Committee on Tax & Fiscal Reform commissioned by La Fortaleza–urged the Legislature to reach an agreement with Gov. Anibal Acevedo Vila to prevent the island from continuing its operations with a deficit of more than $1 billon.

In his opinion, the 16% budget cut proposed by New Progressive Party legislative majority leaders would have a negative effect on the economy.

Benitez said he had request a meeting with legislative majority leaders, but has yet to receive an answer.

Villalba To Implement City Tax In September

May 22, 2005
Copyright © 2005 EFE. All rights reserved. 

PONCE (EFE) — Villalba Mayor Waldemar Rivera Torres on Sunday said his administration hopes to implement a municipal sales tax in September. The idea is similar to the city tax plan Caguas Mayor William Miranda Marin had proposed a few months ago.

Rivera Torres said the city tax would generate $700,000 a year to pay for waste disposal services and improvements to municipal roads.

"I hope the public hearings are through by August so that we can implement the city tax by September," the mayor said in radio reports.

Rivera Torres also said he plans to launch a campaign to educate Villalba residents and business owners on how the city tax would work.

"People should understand that this money will be used to improve road infrastructure and to pay for waste disposal services," said the mayor, who added that no one had yet said anything negative about the idea.

Ferdinand Perez Proposes Smoother Tax Reform

May 22, 2005
Copyright © 2005 EFE. All rights reserved. 

SAN JUAN (EFE) — Popular Democratic Party (PDP) Rep. Ferdinand Perez on Sunday proposed a different tax rate for corporations and rejected the 10% sales tax that Gov. Anibal Acevedo Vila’s Tax Reform Committee had recommended for all citizens.

Perez said he doesn’t believe in fix tax rates for everyone, and proposed several changes to the committee’s recommended tax reform plan.

"I’m convinced that the implementation of an equal tax rate for corporate entities and individuals would be unacceptable and extremely unfair," Perez said.

The PDP delegation leader at the House Treasury Committee proposed a sales tax that would gradually increase from 6% or 8% to 10%.

"Ten percent may not mean much to some, but it could mean a lot to other people. There are people who must buy $400 in school books and a 10% sales tax in their case would mean an additional $40," the PDP leader said.

He also criticized the idea of having large companies like Walgreens and Burger King pay the same tax rate as do working class and poor people.

The current tax rate for foreign and local companies is 39%.

"To have them pay the same tax rate, simply because it is much easier on the system is unfair," Perez said.

He proposed that the government implement a different tax scale for corporate and individual entities. Peres said tax payers should pay according to their income.

Perez is expected to present his suggestions to Acevedo Vila Monday.

Demonstration Held In Favor Of Puerto Rican Soldier

May 22, 2005
Copyright © 2005 EFE. All rights reserved. 

SAN JUAN (EFE) — An anti-military group known as Madres Contra la Guerra (Mothers against War) held a demonstration in favor of Puerto Rican soldier Pablo Paredes on Saturday in front of a recruitment office in Rio Piedras.

Paredes, 23, was court-martialed and sentenced to two months of confinement and three months of hard labor at a military base for refusing to go to Iraq.

Paredes said he believes the war in Iraq is illegal.

"Puerto Rico is proud to have someone like Pablo Paredes as an objector of war in Iraq," said group spokeswoman Sonia Santiago.

Santiago also urged young Puerto Ricans not to join the military.

She called on citizens to attend a demonstration at La Fortaleza on June 4. Paredes’ parents are expected to request that their son be recognized as a conscientious objector of war.

Orange Targets Latin Markets

Politicians and business leaders plan trade trips to Puerto Rico and Mexico.

By Walter Pacheco | Sentinel Staff Writer

May 21, 2005
Copyright © 2005 Orlando Sentinel. All rights reserved. 

Local politicians and business leaders eager to diversify Central Florida's economy have set their sights abroad, focusing on two Latin markets.

Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer, Orange County Mayor Rich Crotty and a delegation of about 100 businesspeople, including members of the Orlando Regional Chamber of Commerce, will travel June 23 to San Juan, Puerto Rico, for a four-day trade mission and to Monterrey, Mexico, on Sept. 25 for a five-day trip.

Dyer's newly appointed senior adviser for public policy and business development, José Fernández, said the delegation will participate in Puerto Rico's Convención 2005, the U.S. commonwealth's largest business summit. Members will also talk with education leaders about the possibility of establishing a Puerto Rican architecture school in downtown Orlando and with affordable-housing developers about their experiences on the island.

"We are constantly paying attention to Puerto Rican trends, culture and shift in population in Orlando," Fernández said. "Also, Monterrey is a city full of culture, history and industry. I hope the Mexican trade mission will help in exchanging those assets between both cities."

The growth of the Puerto Rican and Mexican communities in metropolitan Orlando has helped spur interest in creating business ties with those Hispanic markets.

"The fact that politicians will participate in Convención 2005 is proof that there is an interest in tapping into the thriving Puerto Rican business community on the island and in Orlando," said Vilma Quintana, the local chamber's vice president of community relations and community partnerships.

Orlando is home to more than 318,000 Puerto Ricans, who comprise 53 percent of the area's Hispanic population. According to the 1997 Economic Census -- the most recent data available -- they own more than 2,429 businesses.

Mexicans account for 13 percent of the local Hispanic population, totaling about 44,521 people, and own close to 1,000 businesses in the region.

Crotty first visited Puerto Rico in 2004 and said he was impressed with "the level of professionalism and leadership on the island."

"Maybe this trade mission could result in bringing over a large and well-known company like Banco Popular," Crotty said.

Banco Popular, the island's largest banking institution and a name easily recognized among local Puerto Ricans, opened its first Central Florida location in 1997.

Jaime Paz y Puente, the Mexican consul in Orlando, said that, though details of the Mexican trade mission are not yet fully developed, he is thrilled by the venture's business and cultural potential.

"I think this is a wonderful way of not only introducing Orlando and Monterrey leaders to each other, but also an opportunity for local leaders to see a vibrant and vigorous Mexico."

Supreme Court Rejects Another One Of Acevedo Vila’s Petition

May 20, 2005
Copyright © 2005 EFE. All rights reserved. 

SAN JUAN (EFE) — The Puerto Rico Supreme Court on Friday rejected Gov. Anibal Acevedo Vila’s petition to hold a hearing in the legal dispute to certify Marisara Pont as Secretary of State.

Acevedo Vila, Pont, and Popular Democratic Party (PDP) Rep. Hector Ferrer requested the Supreme Court to grant a hearing so that the parties involved in the dispute may present their arguments on whether the designated Secretary of State was confirmed to the post during the House session held on May 9.

The House had voted twice on whether to confirm Pont’s appointment to the post of Secretary of State. The first time, Pont received 24 votes and another 16 representatives voted against her. However, House Speaker Jose Aponte said she needed to be confirmed by an absolute majority.

Popular Democratic Party House Minority Leader Hector Ferrer disagreed by saying that Pont didn’t have to be confirmed by an absolute majority. In the second vote, she received even less votes than the first time.

But NPP Reps. Francisco Gonzalez and Bernardo Marquez said they had meant to vote in favor of Pont’s confirmation, and that they only voted against her the second time because they thought they were voting against a reconsideration of the first results.

House press officials said they have already turned in the session’s transcripts and recordings that the Supreme Court had requested.

Garriga Pico To Support Rossello For Senate President

May 20, 2005
Copyright © 2005 EFE. All rights reserved. 

SAN JUAN (EFE) — New Progressive Party (NPP) Sen. Jose Garriga Pico on Friday decided to join the group of senators who support Pedro Rossello’s aspirations to take over as Senate president.

Garriga Pico said that, after a careful evaluation of the results of the NPP general assembly, he has decided to abide by the decision of his own party and to support Rossello for Senate president.

"We, the senators who were elected under the insignia of the NPP, are committed to our own party. Therefore, we must act according to its institutional rules and stances," Garriga Pico told reporters during a press conference.

Garriga Pico is one of 13 senators who had signed a document to state their support for current Senate President Kenneth McClintock.

Now, he is the fifth NPP senator to change his mind. The other four are Lornna Soto, Luis Daniel Muñiz, Carlos Pagan, and Margarita Nolasco.

To become president of the Senate, Rossello needs nine votes from the NPP delegation and 14 to repeal a regulation clause that states the Senate president must be elected for a full term.

Aponte Rejects Sanctions Against PDP Representatives

May 20, 2005
Copyright © 2005 EFE. All rights reserved. 

SAN JUAN (EFE) — House Speaker Jose Aponte reiterated his position not to act on the recommendation of Popular Democratic Party (PDP) House minority leader Hector Ferrer to apply sanctions against two PDP representatives who voted in favor of revoking Gov. Anibal Acevedo Vila’s veto of a resolution, that favored the continuance of rehabilitation services for the severely handicapped in Puerto Rico.

Ferrer asked Aponte to remove PDP Reps. Jorge Colberg Toro and Lydia Mendez from their posts as minority speakers at the Budget, Allocations & Social Welfare and Women’s Affairs committees.

Aponte reiterated his stance during a legislative session. He also insisted on his authority to make such decision, despite PDP objections.

The House speaker said that according to House rules, he may reject or deny the petitions from delegation leaders.

Surgeon General To Visit Ponce School Of Medicine

May 20, 2005
Copyright © 2005 EFE. All rights reserved. 

SAN JUAN (EFE) — The U.S. Surgeon General of Puerto Rican descent, Richard Carmona, will be a guest speaker at the graduation ceremony of the Ponce School of Medicine.

Carmona, who is the highest ranking medical doctor in the U.S., will take part in the ceremony, which will be held at Teatro La Perla on May 28.

Carmona is a trauma surgeon as well as the lead spokesperson on disease prevention, public health, and medicine in the United States.

He is also a military officer, as well as a department surgeon and SWAT training officer at the Pima County Sheriff's Department in Arizona.

Vassallo Chooses Virginia Tech; Former UR Signee Picks Hokies After Failing Admittance

Mike Harris

May 19, 2005
Copyright © 2005 Bell & Howell Information and Learning Company. All rights reserved. 

Angel Daniel "A.D." Vassallo won't play his collegiate basketball at the University of Richmond. He will be staying in state.

The 6-6 Vassallo, from Santa Maria Toa Baja, Puerto Rico, yesterday signed a grant-in-aid with Virginia Tech.

Vassallo originally signed with UR last year out of Faith Christian Academy in Hurt. He then went to Hargrave Military Academy for a year. He did not gain admittance to UR. He has not been accepted at Tech yet, but that isn't expected to be an issue.

Vassallo has met the requirements for freshman eligibility.

"He's a very good student," Tech coach Seth Greenberg said. "He's a very serious young man who is committed to academics and really wants to be a college graduate.

"We're happy to get him. This was not something you plan on. Once it materialized, it was something we thought was important we pursue."

Vassallo completes Tech's recruiting class. The Hokies have signed four players, all of them 6-6 or taller. Tech's other recruits are 6-8 Cheick Diakite of Bamako, Mali; 6-8 Terrance Vinson of Valdosta, Ga.; and 6-9 Hyman Taylor of Ft. Lauderdale, Fla.

Greenberg said Vassallo "has range, has toughness, has a maturity about him. He's experienced. He hits into the way we want to play. He understands the game, he moves the ball well. He solidifies an area for us."

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