Friday, October 18, 2019

Gov. García Padilla Issues a Final Call for Unity

By on March 3, 2016

On April 25, 2013, Gov. Alejandro García Padilla said he was proud to announce Puerto Rico was on its way to a full recovery, lauding how in 100 days, his administration had ended mismanagement at the water and electric utilities, saved the pension systems and reactivated the economy by creating jobs, among other quick coups.

About three years later and delivering his fourth and final State of the Commonwealth address, the governor said, “the path toward a new dawn has not ended,” as Puerto Rico finds itself in the toughest stretch of the road, with critical months ahead for a cash-strapped commonwealth in an economic free fall.

As the Puerto Rico government continues its crusade in Washington, D.C., to achieve an orderly debt restructuring, García Padilla urged the country to join together in one voice and demand immediate action from Congress if the island is to wash away its fiscal and economic misfortunes.

“I can understand the gluttony of the Wall Street sector because their interests are different. But what I can’t understand is that Puerto Rico politicians join Wall Street against Puerto Rico,” said the governor, while warning once again about the potential defaults this summer if timely congressional action is not achieved. Puerto Rico owes more than $2.5 billion in debt payments between May and July.

García Padilla noted during his speech how his administration has reduced spending without layoffs; increased employment; and transformed the Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority. Also highlighted were achievements in civil rights and economic development, particularly those in the tourism, aerospace and service and agriculture industries. He supported the decriminalization of marijuana, while urging a serious public discussion on whether it should be legalized.

For Resident Commissioner Pedro Pierluisi, the governor’s address was very disappointing, with “achievements that result from fantasy.” The New Progressive Party president and gubernatorial hopeful said the administration has no credibility and has a confrontational attitude that is wrong. “[García Padilla] talked about Wall Street. If anything, they were the ones who lent money to the government of Puerto Rico,” Pierluisi said.

Meanwhile, with expectation building up beforehand, García Padilla addressed the looming transition to a value-added tax in April, along with a tax hike on business-to-business transactions, but fell short of putting these plans on hold.

Instead, García Padilla called on Puerto Rico lawmakers to “correct the mistake” of having a majority of residents still paying taxes on their incomes, as initially proposed under his administration’s failed tax reform. “Eliminate income taxes,” he urged.

“In front of Congress and creditors, we can’t be divided,” the governor stressed during his message. Yet, achieving unity moving forward and “not passing the crisis on to the next governor,” as García Padilla stated, could prove particularly challenging as he finishes his fourth and final year before exiting La Fortaleza.

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