Ricardo Rossello, Puerto Rico’s governor-elect, released the details of his economic plan at a recent Chamber of Commerce meeting. “The time has come,” he said, “to show the world that Puerto Rico is open for business.”
The first pillar of his plan is to remove obstacles to doing business in Puerto Rico. “We have to find ways for the local investor to trust again and contribute to Puerto Rico’s development,” he said, “as well as all of those who want to bring their capital to Puerto Rico.” Examples of the obstacles Rossello wants to remove include long waits for permits, “burdensome tax rates,” and high energy costs.
Rossello also says that he plans to demand equality from the United States. Puerto Rico receives fewer benefits from the federal government than states do. This means, for example, that Puerto Rico does without needed highway funding and pays a much higher proportion of the costs of medical care than states. The U.S. government is legally allowed to treat territories differently from states. Rossello favors statehood, which will put Puerto Rico on an equal footing with the 50 states.
Another priority, Rossello says, is to regain credibility.
The presentation echoed a plan Rossello and the incoming Resident Commissioner, Jenniffer Gonzalez, sent to Orrin Hatch, of the Task Force on Economic Growth. It was claimed at the meeting of the PROMESA board that the current governor’s plan doesn’t comply with the parameters of PROMESA. Several commenters suggested that the Garcia Padilla plan was based on the premise that Puerto Rico’s economy is a national economy, not a regional or a territorial one.
“Our economic development plan is based on a strategy at both the federal level, and the local level. While we have a list of initiatives we will set afoot once we take the government’s reins, there are measures the U.S. government can take to promote economic development,” Rosselló said.
Gonzalez said firmly, “The fiscal oversight board won’t be able to fulfill its goals if measures to propel our economy aren’t approved. That is why it is vital to consider the initiatives we have been proposing.” Making a plan won’t make a difference unless Congress approves the tactics of the plan.
The specific tactics proposed in the plan:
- Equality in Medicaid and Medicare funding
- Application of the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) and the Child Tax Credit
- Temporary reduction of Puerto Rican workers’ contribution to Social Security
- Establishment of Empowerment and Enterprise Zones
- Community Renewal and New Market Tax Credits programs
- Tax deductions for U.S. corporate investors
- Guarantee of bonds by the Treasury Department