Former Puerto Rico Governor Luis Fortuño recently wrote an article for The Hill reminding readers that “Puerto Rico has voted for statehood…twice.”
Does Puerto Rico want statehood?
First he called out Aníbal Acevedo Vilá, who claimed in an opinion piece at The Hill that the people of Puerto Rico don’t want statehood. In fact, Puerto Rico voters have chosen statehood twice, in 2012 and 2017.
“The real reason Mr. Acevedo Vilá is speaking out against statehood is because his party’s preferred ‘enhanced commonwealth’ plan – a fairy-tale status that exempts the residents of Puerto Rico from the federal income tax, while providing them with access to all federal programs and a new federal subsidy – was not on the ballot,” Fortuño explained. “His party continues to shout that the votes have been ‘rigged’ because this option wasn’t included. However, it was excluded for good reason: over the past 20 years, both the White House and Department of Justice have declared it to be unconstitutional.”
The 2017 plebiscite presented voters with all the choices that are viable under the U.S. Constitution.
Fortuño pointed out that Acevedo Vila’s party was in power in Puerto Rico from 2013 to 2016, and never held a referendum. Polls showed that statehood would win, even with the “enhanced commonwealth” option on the ballot. So, while then Governor Garcia Padilla promised to hold a referendum during his incumbency, he failed to do so.
“Most of Puerto Rico’s sons and daughters have already attained the responsibilities and benefits of statehood by relocating to one of the 50 states,” Fortuño said, “with greater numbers moving every year.”
Fortuño then responded to claims that statehood would not be good for Puerto Rico economically. Seeing Puerto Rico in a debt crisis, with a level of poverty and joblessness far higher than that of any state, it is hard to imagine how anyone could argue for continued territory status as a good economic decision.
“Hawaii and Alaska, the most recent territories to become states, averaged double-digit economic growth for more than a decade after admission,” Fortuño reminded readers. “In the face of staggering hurricane recovery costs and debt restructuring, the U.S. citizens of Puerto Rico need the pro-growth solution: statehood.”