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Pierluisi Expects Legislation on P.R.’s Crisis Following U.S. House Feb. 2 Hearing

By on January 24, 2016

SAN JUAN – Resident Commissioner Pedro Pierluisi said he expects Congress to unveil a legislative package aimed at tackling Puerto Rico’s fiscal and economic woes after a U.S. House Indian, Insular & Alaska Native Affairs Subcommittee hearing slated for Feb. 2.

During next week’s hearing, the House subcommittee, chaired by Rep. Don Young (R., Alaska), will discuss the potential establishment of a federal fiscal control board on Puerto Rico.

“Let me be crystal clear. If this package seeks to impose a federal board to oversee the Puerto Rico government’s fiscal practices, but does not provide Puerto Rico with the authority to restructure a portion of its debt—as every state is authorized to do—or provide Puerto Rico with fair treatment under federal programs, I will adamantly oppose such an unbalanced package and it will not become law,” Pierluisi stated, while adding he would support “meaningful federal oversight,” as long as it is paired “with better—that is, more state-like—treatment of Puerto Rico.”

The commonwealth government has been lobbying Capitol Hill hard to achieve federal legislation that can help Puerto Rico address its fiscal and economic woes, particularly as it relates to having access to Chapter 9 of the U.S. Bankruptcy Code. This would allow Puerto Rico to restructure more than $20 billion of public corporation debt.

The Alejandro García Padilla administration is banking on congressional action during the first half of 2016, as it tries to avoid additional defaults amid a debt-service schedule that becomes steeper this summer. House Speaker Paul Ryan (R., Wis.) has said the lower chamber aims to come up with a solution to the Puerto Rico issue before the end of March.

“Over the years, Congress has a history of trying to provide Puerto Rico with ‘special’ treatment, and these efforts—whether well-intentioned or ill-intentioned—almost always end up harming Puerto Rico. My constituents are not laboratory rats upon whom the federal government should be undertaking policy experiments,” Pierluisi stressed, adding that “equality is the best policy.”

By Luis J. Valentín

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