Puerto Rico's House clears way for $2.95 bln bond deal

Puerto Rico's House clears way for $2.95 bln bond deal

March 10 (Reuters) - Puerto Ricos House of Representatives 
approved legislation Tuesday to allow for automatic adjustments 
to a tax on oil that would help ensure sufficient revenue to pay 
back a bond deal of as much as $2.95 billion expected by early 
April. 
The measure was approved by the Senate last week and is 
expected to be enacted quickly by Gov. Alejandro Garcia Padilla. 
Puerto Rico needs to sell the bonds to improve its liquidity 
position outside of financial markets for up to two years while 
it pushes fiscal and economic reforms. 
Lawmakers agreed to ensure that investors in the deal would 
have sufficient coverage by including a clause to hike the oil 
tax if it failed to raise $325 million annually to make the bond 
payments. If oil tax revenue surpasses expectations, the tax 
rate could be adjusted downward. 
The legislation calls for the Treasury secretary to certify 
the amount of money raised by the tax by March 31 of each year. 
The adjustment would then be made effective on the following 
fiscal year starting July 1. The first adjustment will take 
effect July 1, 2017, according to the bill. 
Lawmakers inserted stronger anti clawback language 
protecting the oil tax revenue from being redirected for other 
uses. The legislation extends a general obligation 
constitutional guarantee for the bonds and allows investors to 
sue in New York state courts for any claim arising from the bond 
deal. 
The 68 percent oil tax hike backing the deal raises the tax 
on a barrel of oil to $15.50 from $9.25 and takes effect on 
March 15. 
It is unpopular and comes during an austerity drive this 
year that cut government spending by $1.4 billion. Most of the 
proceeds from the deal will be used to repay a $2.2 billion GDB 
loan to the Puerto Rico Highways Transportation Authority 
(HTA). 
The legislation aims to transfer the GDBs $2.2 billion loan 
to the HTA to the Puerto Rico Infrastructure Financing 
Authority, along with the means to pay for it via revenue 
produced by hikes in the petroleum tax. The oil tax hike would 
also be used to support HTA operations. 
The legislation has been an uphill battle for the 
administration, with the governor calling a special session last 
December after lawmakers refused to approve the tax during the 
ordinary legislative session by a single vote in both chambers. 


(Editing by Edward Krudy and Ken Wills) 
((edward.krudy@thomsonreuters.com)) 

Keywords: USA PUERTORICO/BONDS