Monday, July 16, 2018

Rep. Bishop says Puerto Rico economy must be vibrant before statehood

By on May 5, 2018

SAN JUAN – While Congressman Rob Bishop has said he supports Puerto Rico’s admission as a state, he clarified Friday that the island would have to meet certain conditions such as having a vibrant economy and a stable government to gain Washington’s support.

According to the commonwealth’s fiscal plan, however, Puerto Rico’s finances are not expected to stabilize until 2023, when the effect of structural reforms reflect results.

During a press conference in Puerto Rico, Bishop–who chairs the U.S. House Committee on Natural Resources, which oversees Puerto Rico matters–compared the island’s struggle to become a state to that of his native Utah. He said it “should have been made a state 40 years before it was actually made a state.”

The island’s admission as a state has to be approved by both congressional chambers and certain conditions would have to happen before “the culture of Washington will be accepting of that situation,” he said.

“I want to be very clear: I’m in favor of Puerto Rico statehood. If people are willing to sit down, put partisanship aside, and do what is best for the people of Puerto Rico, we will have success,” the congressman said alongside Resident Commissioner Jenniffer González.

The Republican lawmaker said it was important to rebuild the commonwealth following Hurricane Maria’s devastation, and added he will hold an oversight hearing to make sure the congressionally established board that oversees the island’s finances, operates more efficiently. As of July 2017, for example, the fiscal board reported it had spent more than $30 million some 10 months after it was created.

Asked about how compatible he thought statehood was while having a fiscal oversight board, Bishop said, “Everything is intertwined.”

“Obviously if the status were to change to that of statehood, you would not have a Promesa [federal law] board, but at the same time, the Promesa board is a requirement simply because you are a commonwealth status right now and it’s still the plenary responsibility of Congress to make sure this takes place,” Bishop said.

“I’m more than happy to see that situation change,” he added, “However before the status changes, there has to be some things that are manifest: Obviously, a vibrant economy and a stable government that is fiscally sound, is an essential element that goes along with that.”

The resident commissioner filed a statehood admission bill in Congress at the beginninf of the year.

Resident Commissioner presents Puerto Rico statehood bill

The fiscal board recently certified the island’s fiscal plans but has yet to file a debt-adjustment plan in the bankruptcy process under Title III of Promesa to restructure the island’s $70 billion debt.

Bishop was visiting Puerto Rico to meet with members of the fiscal board, government officials and private sector representatives. He noted that his efforts center on economic recovery with a focus on improving the energy sector to make it efficient and affordable.

“So it’s not a matter of federal dollars coming here or more insurance dollars coming here, but how are we going to build private sector jobs,” he said.

In a Saturday evening statement, Gov. Ricardo Rosselló said: “The latest statements by Congressman Bishop, clarifying his endorsement towards statehood, facilitates bringing back to public attention that the condition of inequality that Puerto Ricans experience as a consequence of colonial discrimination is the main cause of the economic and financial crisis in Puerto Rico.

To leave the crisis permanently and overcome these economic and fiscal difficulties in the government, the transition from a colonial territory to Statehood for Puerto Rico must take place.
We demand full recognition of civil rights for our people as citizens of the United States and respect for our democratic order to execute the public policy of the government elected by the people. That is the position that we have consistently expressed, both to Congressman Bishop, and to the rest of the leadership of the federal Congress.
That requirement of equality validated by our people in two plebiscites, cannot have pre-conditions.
We urge Congressman Bishop to submit a binding admission project and assume as chairman of the House Committee on Natural Resources of the federal House of Representatives, the commitment to push forward for its approval. That legislative action, along with the excellent efforts of the resident commissioner, will have the full support of my Administration and the disposition of the people of Puerto Rico.”

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