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Puerto Rico's Governor Inks Bill Allowing Island Governments to Share Services

First Posted: Jul 31, 2016 09:38 PM EDT
Alejandro Garcia Padilla

Photo : Christopher Gregory/Bloomberg via Getty Images

In a desperate attempt to cut costs as the country's debt crisis only deepens, the governor of Puerto Rico has ratified a bill that allows all 78 of the island's municipal governments to share administrative services.

Gov. Alejandro Garcia Padilla recently signed the measure into law by championing the savings it is touted to bring about. With a staff of nearly 55,000 workers, estimates peg the costs of running town governments at about $2 billion per year.

Debt Tops $70 Billion 

With the island mired in a financial crisis and economic downturn that has the commonwealth some $70 billion in debt, many of the island's mayors have supported the legislation.

In addition, the U.S. House of Representatives recently passed a bill allowing the minimum wage to drop to a U.S. low of just $4.25 per hour for some young workers under the age of 25.

The so-called PROMESA Act (H.R. 5278) also called for the creation of an oversight board that would aid the government in restructuring its massive debt.

PROMESA Act Controversial 

Leading up to a vote on the measure, several prominent Latino legislators opposed the bill, among them House Democratic Chair Xavier Becerra, D-Calif., and Rep. Luis Gutierrez, D-Ill.

"This is not my promise; my promise is that the people of Puerto Rico be respected, that we don't treat them as if they were colonized slaves, I reject this bill," said Gutierrez. "Let me tell you that my promise is clear; to continue my work to defend Puerto Rico. As it is said by the Puerto Rican people: 'Precious, it does not matter what tyrant treats you with bad intentions, precious you'll be.'"

While agreeing that the bill was far from perfect, White House officials commended the bipartisan effort it took to put it together and urged lawmakers to work together to land it on President Obama's desk for passage.

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