Marco Rubio’s Better Future for Puerto Rico

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.

11 Comments

Chris

Excellent editorial by Rubio! At this point in the campaign I am torn between Jeb Bush, Marco Rubio, and John Kasich but I am really leaning towards either Bush or Rubio. I support allowing Chapter 9 protections for Puerto Rico but I can understand Rubio’s position on the matter.

Luis Arroyo

Excellent Rubio piece.
I oppose chapter 9 for Puerto Rico.
It is effectively granting powers to the territory it doesn’t have,thus equating it to a state. EFFECTIVELY CREATING A PIECEMEAL PATH TO THE UNCONSTITUTIONAL “ENHANCED COMMONWEALTH”.
As American Samoa Delegate REP Sablan said to the PDP (“commonweath “party) Rep Cesar Miranda and his delegation…. ” Chapter 9 is a privilege of statehood. You oppose statehood yet want the instruments of statehood?”

Dennis Myers

It seems odd to be against a right that states have in Chapter 9, but then be pro-statehood. Then again, Republicans are known for their ability to balance opposing views. Like their stance about Personal Responsibility and freedom, as opposed to having government control over gay marriage, pot legalization, and pregnancy.

Chris

I think Rubio is trying to balance the need to appease the largely White, rural, Deep South/Midwestern base while also attempting to expand the GOP tent and become a more diverse party. Let’s face it, the GOP is done unless it becomes a more diverse party.

Ed Tirado

Why don’t we make that known to the whole world that the Puerto Rican people already elected for statehood, but have been rejected.
In a different note I never understood why the Island’s leadership were allow to terminated the U.S. Navy’s firing range off the cost. They lost lot of income from it.

Chris

@Ed, the US Navy’s reasoning was that without the Viques firing ranges there was no need for Roosevelt Roads Naval Station. In truth, I think both the protesters and the Federal government were very shortsighted. The anti-gunnery protests were hijacked by the PIP and it became an anti-American thing which upset the Federal government and they retaliated by closing the base entirely.

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