Puerto Rico House speaker to lobby for island to be considered domestic in US tax reform
SAN JUAN – The speaker of Puerto Rico’s House of Representatives, Carlos “Johnny” Méndez was traveling Monday with a group of lawmakers to Washington, D.C., to lobby Congress for the island to be designated a domestic jurisdiction for tax purposes. Tax reform is being discussed in conference committees between both legislative chambers.
“Our discourse on this is: We just went through a Category 5 hurricane and another Category 4 hurricane that devastated the island and we cannot now expose ourselves to a Category 10 hurricane, which is precisely what Puerto Rico being considered a foreign jurisdiction represents. We could immediately lose between 75,000 and 250,000 direct and indirect jobs.
“According to the version of the federal House of Representatives, a 20 percent tax would be immediately imposed and that would make it difficult for [U.S. companies] to continue doing business in Puerto Rico. The vision of President Donald Trump is these companies that are in foreign jurisdictions move into domestic territory. That is why it is imperative that we be in Congress this week,” Méndez said in a Wapa Radio interview.
The lawmaker indicated that he favors having the island designated a domestic jurisdiction for tax purposes and that last week, the island’s House approved Concurrent Resolution 56, which supports the position and asks Congress to act on the request.
Méndez also spoke about the local political opposition, saying, “The [Popular Democratic Party’s (PDP)] story is to oppose parity for Puerto Rico. We are the jurisdiction that does not have any kind of rights. American citizens move here from Florida and lose half their rights; we move to Florida and are afforded all the rights and responsibilities. So I don’t know what they’re afraid of.”
Senate President Thomas Rivera Schatz; House Federal, International and Status Affairs Committee Chairman José Aponte Hernández; and Reps. José “Quiquito” Meléndez Ortiz and José “Che” Pérez Cordero were traveling with the speaker.
Meanwhile, House PDP minority spokesman Rep. Rafael “Tatito” Hernandez called the speaker’s visit insensitive and shameful.
“I don’t know how the speaker of the House dares announce with great fanfare that he is going to travel to Congress to lobby for Puerto Ricans to pay federal taxes at a time when the ordinary citizen has yet to recover from Hurricane María’s onslaught, and at a time when 70,000 direct jobs and 160,000 indirect jobs are in peril as a result of the blow to the manufacturing sector,” Hernández said in a written statement.
“At times like the ones the country is going through, we have to take off our ideological blinders and view the crisis beyond politics. For that reason, we have joined the governor, along with other sectors in this effort, to watch over these jobs.
“Unfortunately, Johnny Méndez opted to leave Resident Commissioner Jenniffer González’s side, turning his back on [Governor] Ricardo Rosselló and Puerto Rico without caring for the parents who will have to leave the country due to the loss of thousands of jobs and the collapse of our economy,” the PDP legislator added.