Territories flirt with anti-statehood policy at own risk

Different territories, different solutions, different outcomes

PR51ST recently reported on a proposal by the U.S. Virgin Islands non-voting Delegate in the U.S. House of Representatives to restore federal tax shelters for stateside corporations in all U.S. territories.  Tax shelters like USVI Delegate Stacey Plaskett proposed treat territories more like foreign jurisdictions than like states, and would be unconstitutional in a state. Local economic dependence on federal tax policy that is not compatible with future statehood is also incompatible with state-like treatment for territories seeking greater equality with states.

For that reason the Plaskett proposal on return to territorial tax shelter policies phased out two decades ago underscored the need for federal territorial policy in each territory to be based on the unique history of federal relations with each territory. Since Congress has authorized home rule in territories with local self-government organized under federal law, the federal government should not apply policies across the board in all territories that are in conflict with local majority rule and democratic self-determination in each territory.

Puerto Rico is the only territory ready for statehood, the only territory that has petitioned for admission to the union as a state, and the only territory that in most and eventually in all respects will continue policies seeking state-like treatment instead of treatment incompatible with statehood.

Small territories pursue experimental solutions

Leaders in the pro-statehood territorial government of Puerto Rico did not support the USVI delegate’s proposal for new tax shelters in all territories.

This is not the first time Plaskett has taken positions in Congress on behalf of U.S. territories she does not represent. Recently she evoked the tragedy of natural disasters in Puerto Rico and USVI, and the suffering of American in the Northern Mariana Islands to demand that U.S. citizens in all U.S. territories be recognized as entitled to the same federal voting rights for representation in Congress as citizens in the states of the union.

Yet, voting rights for representation in Congress and the Electoral College are apportioned exclusively to citizens of the states by the U.S. Constitution, and Puerto Rico is the only territory that has petitioned Congress for statehood based on democratic self-determination.  What this means is that Plaskett has enlisted fellow members of Congress to support rights for the territories that come only with statehood, or by amendment of the Constitution, without a democratic act of self-determination to support the same political status outcome in other territories that have not joined Puerto Rico in petitioning for statehood.

One-size territorial policy does not fit all territories

In recent reporting on territorial affairs PR51ST has noted contradictions between political and legal strategies for reform of federal-territorial relations through one-size-fits-all solutions, and reforms seeking different solutions for each territory based on local self-determination.

Some reforms may be consistent with democratic self-government and majority rule in all the territories, but not consistent with federal law and policy. Yet, some political and legal solutions proposed in Congress and the federal courts by one territorial regime may be viewed by other territories as inherently flawed and anti-democratic. For each territory there are reforms proposed by other territories that are as unwanted as unilaterally imposed federal-territorial law and policies that are opposed locally.

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