In a piece entitled “Mejor Futuro para Puerto Rico” (“A better future for Puerto Rico”) published in El Nuevo Dia today, presidential candidate Marco Rubio laid out his plans for Puerto Rico if he becomes president.
He started with a positive and accurate view of Puerto Rico:
Sitting less than 1,000 miles from the American mainland, Puerto Rico has been a U.S. territory since the end of the Spanish-American War in 1897. Since 1917, Puerto Ricans have been U.S. citizens. Puerto Rican soldiers, seamen, airmen and Marines have fought bravely in every American conflict of the last 100 years, serving – and making the ultimate sacrifice – at higher rates than Americans from almost anywhere else.
Puerto Rico is clearly blessed with natural beauty, a vibrant culture, and hard-working and patriotic Americans.
Rubio cautioned that Puerto Rico’s leadership will have to make hard choices and stop expecting a “silver bullet” from Washington. He cautioned that “the reality is that Puerto Rico’s leaders must lead and do the difficult but essential work of cutting spending, reining in out-of-control big government and eliminating job-killing policies, including scores of new tax increases.” He also rejected allowing Puerto Rican municipalities to reorganize their debts under Chapter 9 of the U.S. Bankruptcy Code, saying that the proposal “would not solve Puerto Rico’s problems and should only be a measure of last resort considered if Puerto Rico takes significant steps to fix its budget and economic mess.”
Rubio emphasized that “the next U.S. president can make a positive contribution.” He endorsed implementing a conservative agenda to “create favorable conditions for a Puerto Rican renaissance as part of a new American economy in the 21st century.”
One of the specific plans Rubio mentioned is a change to the Earned Income Tax Credit, which does not apply to Puerto Rico. Rubio intends to change the EITC from a lump sum refund to a “wage enhancement” spread out through the year, and plans to extend its coverage to Puerto Rico, making sure that “encouraging work in Puerto Rico isn’t hampered by a federal government that too often treats our citizens there unequally in its policies.”
Rubio also cited plans to double the Child Tax Credit (CTC) and expand the law to recognize “that the financial burdens of raising children starts with the first child.” The CTC is accessible in Puerto Rico only for workers with three or more children under current law.
Rubio has plans for changes to healthcare policies as well, and under those changes, “Puerto Rican consumers will be treated the same as other American consumers on the mainland.” Rubio cited in particular Puerto Rico’s recent loss of Medicare Advantage funding and criticized the Obama administration for “the disproportionate damage” it has “inflicted on the island” through its healthcare policies.
Finally, Rubio acknowledged the problems created by Puerto Rico’s current status, as well as the fact that Puerto Rico has already voted for statehood:
Ultimately, Puerto Rico’s status must be resolved, and its unequal treatment by the federal government must end. As president, I will continue to speak clearly about the importance of enabling Puerto Ricans to resolve their status. Already, during a 2012 referendum, Puerto Ricans made their aspirations clear by rejecting the status quo and choosing statehood. Puerto Rico deserves to take the next step, something America has offered to its territories since 1787 when it first opened the door to the creation of new states, even before adopting our Constitution. Puerto Rico should have a federally-sponsored vote on the island with two choices: become a state or not. If a majority of Puerto Ricans votes yes, Congress and the next president should respect their will and do what’s necessary to admit them as the 51st state.
“For over a century,” Rubio concluded, “Puerto Ricans have contributed to our economy, enriched our culture and nobly sacrificed in our wars. Puerto Ricans are Americans.”
Rubio is campaigning in Puerto Rico today.