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Rep. José E. Serrano Affirms: Puerto Rico’s Economic Situation Cannot be Resolved until Political Status Question is Answered

Congressman José E. Serrano made public his recommendations to the PROMESA-mandated Congressional Task Force on Economic Growth in Puerto Rico. Describing himself as “the most senior member of Congress of Puerto Rican descent,” Serrano listed “items which will improve the economic development of Puerto Rico and help working families on the island.”

Puerto Rico’s political status is the first item on Serrano’s list. “By far the most important issue needed to address economic opportunity and development in Puerto Rico is that of Puerto Rico’s political status,” Serrano wrote. “Currently, Puerto Rico is a U.S. territory subject to congressional authority pursuant to the Territorial Clause of the Constitution… The Puerto Rican people have been treated unequally for 118 years, and it should surprise no one that the result is that Puerto Rico’s economy is in shambles, its unemployment rate is too high, and hundreds of thousands of island residents have left for the mainland in search of a better quality of life.  It is clear that the current economic and fiscal crisis in Puerto Rico is a direct result of this colonial status.”

Pointing out that the people of Puerto Rico have very little voice in the democratic process in the United States, Serrano went on to write, “There are some that will argue that we should first concentrate on solving Puerto Rico’s fiscal crisis and economic problems before dealing with the political status question.  The two issues cannot be separated.  Because of its colonial status, Puerto Rico is not granted billions of federal dollars a year that it would receive were it a state of the Union.  As a result, in order to provide essential services, the island’s government has had to borrow heavily in order to close the gap.  Since its economy has lagged well behind the states for decades as a result of its colonial status, the island did not have sufficient economic growth to cover its expenses and service its debt.  Therefore, a reasonable person would conclude that Puerto Rico’s problems are a result of its colonial status.  In other words, the economic situation is directly correlated to its political status and until and unless we solve the political status question, we will not solve the economic situation.”

Serrano’s suggestion is to use the funds allocated in 2014 for a final referral on the question of political status. “In 2012, a majority of the Puerto Rican people voted in a non-binding plebiscite on political status to end the current colonial status, and a supermajority of 61.2 percent voted in favor of statehood.  Recent polls conducted in Puerto Rico suggest that 65 percent of the population favors statehood,” said Serrano. “I believe that this Task Force should include further funding in its recommendation in order to ensure that this money is used for its designated purpose, and so that the Puerto Rican people can choose once and for all.”

Serrano recommends an up or down vote on statehood. If statehood fails, then Puerto Rico should look toward independence, he suggests. “Absent serious action in Congress to address Puerto Rico’s status,” Serrano wrote, “I strongly believe we in Congress will end up revisiting Puerto Rico’s economic woes again in the future, whether that is a year, a decade, or a half-century from now. ”

Serrano goes on to list issues that hinder Puerto Rico’s economic development, and which should be addressed by the task force:

  • Health care
  • The Zika virus
  • Inequity in Medicaid and Medicare funding
  • Hospital financing
  • Exclusion from federal poverty programs
  • Exclusion from the Earned Income Tax Credit (even though people in the 50 States who do not earn enough to pay income taxes can receive it)
  • Inequity in the Child Tax Credit
  • Inequity in Social Security benefits (even though Puerto Ricans pay Social Security taxes)
  • Amelioration of Puerto Rico’s energy problems, which have resulted in electricity costs in Puerto Rico which are double that on the U.S. mainland

The recommendations include a number of specific suggestions for improving Puerto Rico’s energy situation, including actions by the federal government and by Puerto Rico’s government.

Read the full letter.

2 thoughts on “Rep. José E. Serrano Affirms: Puerto Rico’s Economic Situation Cannot be Resolved until Political Status Question is Answered”

  1. Again, a YES/NO vote on statehood without an admissions act by congress *Will be called an empty FAKE statehood party referendum * by the “Commonwealth ” PPD party.
    The PPD party will campaign to get out the “NO” vote as a protest “no confidence”vote against too many austerities,Gov Layoffs, PROMESA, anything the part-time nationalist “Commonwealth” party uses to distract.

    They won’t admit the “NO” vote = path to nationhood. (What PPD calls “sovereignty”.)

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