(Adds quotes, details, background on Puerto Rico's financial
By Nick Brown
Feb 24 Puerto Rico Governor Ricardo Rossello
said on Friday he was "committed to establishing a working
relationship" and fostering "open dialogue" with U.S. Treasury
Secretary Steven Mnuchin, after the two met in Washington.
Rossello, who took office on Jan. 2, met with Mnuchin to
discuss his efforts to "put Puerto Rico's financial house in
order," a statement from the governor's office said.
Rossello has signed more than 20 bills and executive orders
aimed at cutting spending and fostering economic growth, but
Puerto Rico faces a long haul out of an economic crisis
characterized by a 45 percent poverty rate, near-insolvent
public pensions and healthcare systems, and almost $70 billion
Under former President Barack Obama, the Treasury took a
hands-on approach in Puerto Rico, working with federal lawmakers
on legislation aimed at giving the U.S. territory a way to cut
debt. President Donald Trump has given little indication of how
his administration may handle Puerto Rico.
The island's finances are under the supervision of a
federally appointed board. Rossello on Tuesday is scheduled to
present the board with a 10-year blueprint for the island's
The board has said the plan should find $4.5 billion a year
in savings and revenue, including a 10 percent reduction in
pension benefits and $1 billion in annual savings on healthcare
In an interview with Reuters on Thursday, Rossello said his
plan will generally meet the board's criteria, with some
exceptions, particularly on healthcare spending.
"A $1 billion reduction in healthcare would not only
severely hamper the people of Puerto Rico, it would also cripple
what is a healthy industry, the healthcare industry," Rossello
Puerto Rico's Medicare system is on the brink of insolvency,
in part because, as a U.S. territory, it receives
proportionately less federal reimbursement than states.
Rossello has said he will lobby the federal government to
increase such funding, but the board has said the turnaround
plan should not assume any funding changes or help from
(Reporting by Nick Brown; Editing by Grant McCool)