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Pierluisi to Use Promesa Task Force to Push for Statehood

By on August 4, 2016

SAN JUAN—Puerto Rico Resident Commissioner Pedro Pierluisi said Thursday he will use his position as member of the congressional Task Force on Economic Growth to promote statehood for Puerto Rico because in his view, the island’s status as a U.S. colony lies at the root of its economic problems.

FILE - In this May 25, 2016 file photo, Puerto Rico's Resident Commissioner Pedro Pierluisi, D-Puerto Rico, speaks on Capitol Hill in Washington, during a House Natural Resources Committee markup hearing on H.R. 5278, Puerto Rico Oversight, Management, and Economic Stability Act. House Republican leaders and President Barack Obama pressured lawmakers in both parties to back legislation to help ease Puerto Rico’s financial crisis as the U.S. territory faces a $2 billion debt payment in just over three weeks. The House is scheduled to begin debate Thursday, June 9, 2016, on a bill that would create a financial control board and restructure some of Puerto Rico’s $70 billion debt. Pierluisi, is supporting the bill despite opposition from other lawmakers on the island. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci, File)

Resident Commissioner Pedro Pierluisi, D-Puerto Rico (AP Photo/Evan Vucci, File)

“As Resident Commissioner, I have stated time and again on the House floor, in committee hearings, and in public speeches, that Puerto Rico’s unequal and undignified status as a territory is the root cause of most of the island’s socio-economic problems,” Pierluisi said. “I will certainly make my views known to my colleagues on the Task Force.”

The Task Force on Economic Growth for Puerto Rico came into existence after the passage of the Puerto Rico Oversight, Management & Economic Stability Act (Promesa), which also establishes a federal oversight board to oversee Puerto Rico’s finances.

Said task force has until December to turn over a report that states impediments in federal laws and policies that hinder Puerto Rico’s growth, as well as recommend changes. The eight-member panel has an earlier Sept. 15 deadline to provide a status report to Congress that includes a discussion on matters the Task Force’s chair, U.S. Sen. Orrin Hatch, deems urgent for consideration.

Pierluisi also urged Puerto Rico to use the opportunities that Promesa provides to schedule a Yes-No vote on statehood.

“In the wake of the 2012 status referendum and due to my initiative, Congress authorized and allocated $2.5 million in funding for the first federally-sponsored status referendum in Puerto Rio’s history, with the ballot to be pre-approved by the U.S. Department of Justice,” Pierluisi explained in written remarks.

“Promesa expressly states that nothing in the law constricts Puerto Rico’s ability to determine its future political status, including by conducting the federally-authorized referendum that Congress enacted into law,” he noted. “I have called upon Puerto Rico to take advantage of this unprecedented opportunity to schedule a simple up-or-down vote on statehood, just as Alaska and Hawaii did right before they became states.”

Pierluisi added that besides promoting economic incentives for U.S. multinational companies in Puerto Rico, he will propose to the task force to resolve Medicaid and Medicare disparities, fully extend the EITC (earned income tax credit) and CTC (child tax credit) to Puerto Rico.

He would also seek to eliminate disparities under federal programs like Supplemental Security Income (SSI), the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (TANF), the Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP), and various other programs.

“However, it bears emphasis that this task force consists of eight members with different viewpoints and the point is to seek common ground,” he said.

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