ALBANY — New York’s longtime budget czar steps down to become executive director of Puerto Rico’s Treasury Control Board.

Robert Mujica – who has controlled the strings at Empire State since being appointed chief budget officer by former governor Andrew Cuomo in 2015 – is leaving the Hochul administration and will join the board of directors in January, Puerto Rico’s Financial Oversight and Board of Governors announced on Thursday.

Mujica will replace Natalie Jaresko, who resigned as executive director of the financial oversight board in April, and will earn about $625,000 a year in the new role.

“Robert Mujica is a game changer,” said CEO David Skeel. “He has the skills, experience and passion to continue the work of the Board of Trustees, helping Puerto Rico achieve long-term fiscal responsibility and implement the reforms necessary to create a solid foundation for sustainable economic growth.”

The federal board is responsible for restructuring Commonwealth debt and developing a fiscal plan for Puerto Rico’s future.

Mujica, 49, was born in Brooklyn and is of Puerto Rican descent. As a child, he spent his holidays on the island.

“This is a special place for me and I want it to prosper,” he said in a statement. “My job in New York was dedicated to fiscal responsibility, fiscal sustainability, transparency and economic growth. In all these areas, New York has been successful. Puerto Rico can succeed too.”

The fiscal guru was a constant presence alongside Cuomo at the former governor’s televised daily briefings during the height of the pandemic, and was one of the few remaining when Governor Hochul took over the state reins last year.

Mujica has drawn criticism from progressive lawmakers and supporters, who often point to his experience working as the top adviser to Republican leaders in the legislature and his opposition to raising taxes on the wealthy. Opponents also accused him of injecting austerity measures into state budgets, and he took the heat before the pandemic because of Medicaid-induced shortages.

Destroyed communities are seen in the aftermath of Hurricane Maria on September 28, 2017, in Toa Alta, Puerto Rico.

He is also an ex officio member of 30 state boards—including the MTA, CUNY, Smart Schools Review Board, Affordable Housing Corporation Board, Financial Restructuring Board for Local Governments, Higher Education Capital Program Board, and the Public Authority Review Board.

In 2017, Mujica was with Cuomo on the first plane to land in Puerto Rico after Hurricane Maria devastated the island. He has traveled back to the island several times to help with state aid and other relief efforts.

According to Skeel, the oversight board has already restructured almost 90% of Puerto Rico’s debt since it was enacted in 2016. It also has certified budgets that ensure government spending “stays within Puerto Rico’s resources.”

He added that he believed appointing Mujica as chairman of the board would bring the group closer to its goal of fiscal sustainability for the troubled island. “As our executive director, Robert will be a critical voice in helping to define these priorities and the path to a better future for the people of Puerto Rico,” he said.

Hochul, meanwhile, praised Mujica and his team, but did not name a successor.

“I will continue to draw on Robert’s exceptional wisdom and expertise in the years to come, but he has built a strong Budget Department that is full of dedicated government officials and we will rely on them as we look for a new budget director,” she said in a statement.

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