Puerto Rico governor will campaign against supporters of GOP tax bill

Puerto Rico governor will campaign against supporters of GOP tax bill
© Camille Fine

Puerto Rico Gov. Ricardo Rosselló said Monday he'll campaign in 2018 against members of Congress who pledged disaster aid to the island but also vote in favor of the Republican tax bill.

"We will not stay quiet or still," tweeted Rosselló. "This next year is a congressional election year and I will be visiting all those jurisdictions to let them know what some of these members of Congress did, saying one thing and doing another."

Rosselló's government led a push to change Puerto Rico's status as a foreign fiscal entity in the Republican tax bill, which is expected to be passed and signed this week. But its requested reforms were not accepted by Republicans who wrote the final bill in the House-Senate conference last week.

The island government insists that the tax bill as currently written would mean economic doom for the already struggling territory. 

Puerto Rican officials made a last-ditch effort last week to convince Republicans to change provisions in the tax bill affecting Puerto Rico.

Puerto Rico Secretary of State Luis Rivera Marin told Reuters the effects of the bill, which considers Puerto Rico foreign territory for tax purposes, would be "worse than Maria."

In a press conference Sunday, Rosselló panned Republicans for supporting the tax bill, taking special aim at those who pushed through the Puerto Rico Oversight, Management, and Economic Stability (PROMESA) Act in 2016.

Under PROMESA, a fiscal control board under control of Congress was named to oversee finances for the island, which was about $72 billion in debt before hurricanes Irma and Maria.

Rosselló said he would campaign against "those who said they would support Puerto Rico in its most difficult moment, who came here, who established it in the public record, who were part of the project of PROMESA, a public policy to stabilize the economy and find fiscal sustainability."

Rosselló added that "in the main moment when they had to keep things the same or give additional aid, they did the exact opposite."

In the weeks after Maria, multiple bipartisan congressional delegations visited Puerto Rico, pledging aid to rebuild the battered island.

Puerto Rico requested more than $94 billion in federal funds for reconstruction efforts, after the island was devastated by Irma and Maria. Three months after Maria, 30 percent of the island is still without power.

The White House requested $44 billion for supplemental disaster relief funds in November, but that includes funds for Texas, hit by Hurricane Harvey, and Florida, also hit by Irma.

Congress is expected to review supplemental disaster relief bills early next year.

Rosselló's warning could resonate in a variety of congressional districts.

Before being devastated by Irma and Maria, Puerto Rico had lost nearly 10 percent of its population in the last decade to economic distress, drastically changing electoral demographics in states like Florida.

Puerto Rican migrants have also settled in Republican strongholds like Texas, aside from traditional magnet states like New York, New Jersey and Illinois.

The exodus of Puerto Ricans — American citizens who are free to live and work stateside — has increased after the disasters, and is expected to maintain itself at a high clip if the island's economy does not recover.

There are about 5.5 million Americans of Puerto Rican origin living in the states, while about 3.4 million Puerto Ricans live on the island.