PDP Candidate Bernier Reiterates Need to Solve Fiscal Crisis
SAN JUAN – The candidate for governor from the Popular Democratic Party (PDP), David Bernier, held a press conference Tuesday in which he talked extensively about the Gov. Alejandro García Padilla’s last State of the Commonwealth address. He said the message described the reality of the problems Puerto Rico faces, as well as the need for different sectors to make common cause to face the financial crisis, an issue with which he agreed. He highlighted the fact that the governor talked about his legacy in areas such as tourism, agriculture and security as well as other elements in which they differ in opinion such as taking up once again the issue of tax reform with a value-added tax (IVA by its Spanish acronym) of nearly 14.5%.
“In the short term, we have to concentrate our efforts in addressing the country’s fiscal problem and, in general, the sociopolitical consensus determines the approval of projects that are necessary to address the fiscal crisis, moving us to achieve a renegotiation of public debt. That should be the priority in the short term, and I have been publicly in support of that direction, the last one being the revitalization of the Puerto Rico Aqueduct and Sewer Authority that was also announced in the message, and it seems to me a project in that direction that strengthens us in the fiscal component.
“At this stage of the of this four-year term, any other debate that fosters division and makes difficult the process to achieve the agreements necessary to allow us to effectively address the fiscal crisis have to be avoided. The time for that proposal has passed, and we know its result.
“The tax model we have now is an inadequate model, and in this aspect, I agree it has to be readjusted, it has to be transformed, and the process to do it, to discuss it, will be during the coming months …and the adjustments that would be carried out have to be along the lines of achieving revenue collection and identifying what could be harmful to citizens, which I insist is in the services IVA. The proposal of a tax reform this moment will generate difficulties.”
Bernier wanted to clarify what he called “a frequent question,” and that is that the president of the legislative conference is the governor, not him.
“I am not going to govern from the PDP. Just as the other candidates, I make my expressions in the direction I think is best for the country. If [a tax reform bill] were to be presented, I would express my public opinions, and legislators will have to make their decision.”
When asked by Caribbean Business if his position includes an attempt to distance himself from the governor to counter the campaign by the New Progressive Party of referring to the current administration as the García Padilla administration, Bernier said:
“That is the typical, traditional political attack. It’s nothing new from what has happened in the past 30 years in the country, where they sit down at a table to see how they can carry out a traditional political campaign. They are in for a great surprise from the rejection the country has to that traditional manner of making politics. I assume my positions, present my proposals and put forth my vision for the country independent of whether it coincides or are from other gubernatorial candidates or past governors.
“I insist, these times are for addressing the fiscal issue and the proposals presented should not hurt the capacity we have to achieve the necessary political and social agreements to address the fiscal problem Puerto Rico has and renegotiate its debt. From that perspective, any proposal or any process that the legislative assembly is to initiate has to make sure it does not lose the ability to be able to address the fiscal problem adequately.”
Regarding García Padilla’s statements on the need for the island to legalize marijuana, Bernier emphatically disagreed with the proposed policy.