Puerto Rico gov files $9.8B budget that calls for deep cuts

AP News
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Posted: May 20, 2015 7:14 PM

SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico (AP) — Puerto Rico's governor submitted a $9.8 billion budget proposal Wednesday calling for $674 million in cuts amid the U.S. territory's economic crisis.

Gov. Alejandro Garcia Padilla did not present the budget during a televised address as is tradition, opting instead to file it after legislators recessed for the day.

Legislators will soon hold public hearings before the House of Representatives approves the budget and turns it over to the Senate. The budget has to be approved by June 30.

"We are facing a historic fiscal crisis where the available resources are extremely limited," the 56-page proposal states.

Puerto Rico is in its eighth year of recession and its government is struggling with $72 billion in public debt and a $534 million deficit. Both Garcia's administration and the island's main opposition party have urged the U.S. Congress to allow the territory to file for bankruptcy under Chapter 9 amid concerns that some public agencies could soon go bankrupt or restructure their debt.

The proposed budget seeks to set aside $1.5 billion to help pay off Puerto Rico's debt, an increase of $400 million from last year's budget. Officials also have said the governor wants to close 95 schools and 20 public agencies to cut costs.

Puerto Rico's Government Development Bank recently released a report warning of a possible moratorium on debt payments and saying the government could run out of money in the first quarter of fiscal year 2016 if new revenue isn't generated soon.

Legislators are currently debating a measure that would increase Puerto Rico's sales tax from 7 percent to 11.5 percent. The bill also calls for a new 4 percent tax on professional services. If approved, the measure is expected to generate $1.2 billion.

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Danica Coto on Twitter: www.twitter.com/danicacoto