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Puerto Rico Poised to Vote for New Course

New Progressive Party (PNP) gubernatorial candidate Ricardo Rossello (D) led Popular Democrat (PPD) David Bernier (D) 41%-33% November 1st-4th in a six-candidate race in the latest edition of the most reliable poll in Puerto Rico.

PNP resident commissioner in the U.S. House of Representatives nominee Jenniffer Gonzalez (R) was ahead of PPD hopeful Hector Ferrer (D) 50%-41% in a four-person contest.

The poll for newspaper El Nuevo Dia also showed that a large majority of those surveyed intended to vote a straight party ticket, suggesting PNP control of the Legislative Assembly as well.

The survey with a 3.1% margin of error included 1,000 interviews.

October 2nd-6th, Rossello was ahead of Bernier 40%-28%.

Rossello won 42% at the end of the November 1st-4th interviews after hearing recent campaign messages; Bernier, 34%.

The gain in the congressional race from a month ago was seven percent for Ferrer.

Sovereigntist (nationalist) PPD San Juan Mayor Carmen ‘Yulin’ Cruz was ahead of the PNP’s Leo Diaz 47%-41% in a mostly separate El Dia poll of 400 voters with a five percent margin of error. Cruz has been a leading critic of PPD Governor Alejandro Garcia Padilla (PPD), one of the shrinking number of “commonwealther”/status quo leaders, who was at 15% favorability last month.

Rossello leads a ticket unified on the issues. Its priority is seeking equality for the territory: statehood.

On government finances, Rossello has pledged three major changes from the Garcia Padilla Administration.

  • One would save up to $800 million a year in annual debt payments within the first six weeks along by reaching agreements with bondholder groups to reschedule payments without reducing principal due, although interest rates would be cut.
  • A second change would lower government spending by some $900 million a year. The territorial government central government budget is $9 billion this fiscal year.
  • A third would reconsider corporate tax exemptions, close tax loopholes, and ensure tax compliance. More than a third of Puerto Rico’s GDP is taxed only slightly and a quarter evades taxation.

The PNP candidate, like Garcia Padilla and Bernier, is also very hopeful of Federal assistance. The three agree on more Medicaid and Medicare funding. They also agree on earned income tax credit benefits for low-income workers, although it is more of a priority in Rossello’s vision.

A top priority for Bernier, as for Gov. Garcia, is lowering the Federal tax rate on income of companies in the States from foreign subsidiaries manufacturing in the islands from 35% to 2.625% — a proposal very unlikely to be approved. By contrast, Rossello is committed to seek the extension to the territory of Federal investment incentives for underdevelopment and distressed communities — a much more realistic aspiration — and increased Federal procurement, not as easy to obtain.

Rossello expects a compliant Federal financial control board because of his fiscal plans as well as because Board Chairman Jose Carrion and Carlos Garcia, another Member who has been influential to date, served in the NPP Administration that Garcia replaced at the beginning of 2013.

While Garcia has been pressing for the elimination of much of the territory’s government debt obligations using the power of the Board and the Federal PROMESA law, Bernier, his former Secretary of State, would audit bond issuances to see if obligations should be cancelled, reduce those that are legitimate to prices actually paid by current creditors, as well as postpone principal repayments for five years.


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