We’ve seen a lot of controversy about the fiscal oversight board that comes with federal help in the PROMESA bill — the Puerto Rico Oversight, Management, and Economic Stability act. This board of seven neutral financial experts will have authority to help Puerto Rico restructure debt and deal with creditors. They will have authority over budget decisions by the government of Puerto Rico. This should help provide a way out of the fiscal crisis caused by Puerto Rico’s $72,000,000+ debt and shrinking economy. But some also feel that it will lessen Puerto Rico’s autonomy.
Recent Supreme Court decisions have made it clear that Puerto Rico doesn’t have much autonomy to lose. Still, Puerto Rico’s leaders are not in full support of the fiscal oversight board, and some members of Congress spoke out strongly against it.
We haven’t heard as much about a second committee created as part of PROMESA: an eight-member Congressional Task Force on Economic Growth. The job of the task force, as described in the act, is fairly limited: “report on impediments in current federal law to economic growth in Puerto Rico.”
This might mean another examination of the Jones Act, which some believe increases the costs of doing business in Puerto Rico. Since the United States is legally allowed to treat Puerto Rico differently from the States and does so in the form of, for example, lower investments in roads, we would hope that they’ll also examine the problems created in Puerto Rico by its territory status.
Members of the task force
Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla will be part of this bipartisan task force. He seems to see a broader opportunity.
“Congress has a responsibility to create the conditions that will spur job creation, reduce poverty and drive investment in the island,” NBC News quoted Rubio as saying. “This is one of the first steps in the process of turning Puerto Rico around, and I’m eager for the opportunity to share my pro-growth agenda for Puerto Rico as a part of this task force.”
Other members of the task force:
- Bill Nelson (D-Florida)
- Orin Hatch (R-Utah)
- Robert Menendez (D-New Jersey
- Sean Duffy (R-Wisconsin)
- Tom MacArthur (R-New Jersey)
- Nydia Velazquez (D-New York)
- Pedro Pierluisi (D-Puerto Rico)
One thing is sure: the task force will help keep at least some members thinking about Puerto Rico. Many have already said that Puerto Rico’s status is the source of the economic problems of the Island. The work of this task force will no doubt make that point even more clear.