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Puerto Rico senators cut their stipends

Friday, January 11, 2013    

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SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico — Puerto Rico's ruling party has eliminated all food and transportation stipends for senators in the US territory.

Incoming Senate President Eduard Bhatia said Saturday that members of the Popular Democratic Party will identify other cost-saving measures amid an economic crisis. Legislators had received up to US$162 in food stipends and up to US$1,460 in monthly transportation stipends.

The administrative order is effective immediately and comes just days after PDP party leader Alejandro Garcia Padilla was sworn in as governor. One of his main priorities is legislative reform, including making legislating a part-time job, a proposal rejected by many.

Puerto Rico legislators earn nearly US$74,000 a year. They are among the highest paid compared with any US state and have long been criticised for their salaries and stipends.

New governor Alejandro Garcia Padilla, who took office last week, said one of his priorities is to create jobs on an island where unemployment hovers above 13 per cent, higher than in any US state.

Garcia said Puerto Rico is facing a public debt higher than previously thought, as well as alarming crime statistics and a downgrading of the island's credit. He said the island needs to strengthen its industrial and commercial sectors, boost agricultural production and graduation rates and improve its education and justice system. The island of four million people reported a record 1,117 homicides in 2011, with just a small drop in 2012.

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