Rubio on Puerto Rico: Restructuring Won’t Help if Spending isn’t Cut
TOA BAJA, Puerto Rico – Florida Sen. Marco Rubio admitted Saturday he needs the delegates from Puerto Rico to obtain the Republican Party nomination for president.
To attract voters to his cause, Rubio promised to implement all the alternatives that could help revitalize the local economy to help it confront its fiscal crisis, except federal bankruptcy protection.
Rubio arrived Saturday night in Toa Baja, where he was welcomed by Puerto Rico Republican Party Chairwoman Jenniffer González and other top local Republicans, as part of his campaign’s effort to win the island’s delegates in the local GOP primary to be held Sunday. It was his second visit to the island.
Puerto Rico has as many delegates as New Hampshire or Maine, 23, and more than five other states or the District of Columbia. Rubio is hoping that winning the Puerto Rico primary will boost his efforts to win Florida, home to about one million Puerto Ricans who have fled the island because of its economic problems.
“The delegates for the first time in many years are really going to be very important…. The number of delegates is going to be very important,” he said in Spanish. “We are here to seek the votes of Puerto Ricans and I am asking everyone to vote for me…. What is decided here [Sunday] will have an impact on the Republican primary.”
Rubio fell flat on the GOP primaries held Saturday, but expects to do better and his delegate count to rise in bigger states such as Florida, which is a “winner take all state…. We knew this was going to be the roughest part of the campaign,” he said in Puerto Rico
Rubio said bankruptcy will not solve the island’s economic woes if the government continues to spend money it does not have, adding, “The only solution is to reduce cost and increase revenues, but not by hiking taxes.”
Gov. Alejandro Garcia Padilla is lobbying Congress to obtain federal bankruptcy protection and other assistance because the government does not have the money to pay obligations due in May and June. He has asked Rubio to support efforts to extend to Puerto Rico the benefits of Chapter 9 bankruptcy protection; however, while Rubio understands the island’s fiscal situation, he believes the current administration’s policies have contributed to the problem. He says the way for Puerto Rico to fix its $70 billion debt crisis is to revitalize the local economy.
“The economic situation has to be improved and you are not going to do that by following the left wing and liberal policies of the Democratic Party. The only thing that can be done is to push economic growth,” he said.
As president, Rubio said he would be willing to make changes to the U.S. Tax Code to grant the earned income tax credit to island residents and to help with the way Puerto Rico manages federal funding for health care, as well as bring more security to reduce the amount of drugs that enter the island.
“Status is important…. I believe we need a Yes-No referendum, and the decision should be respected,” he said.
While he supports the Jones Act to protect the shipping industry, Rubio said he is willing to evaluate amendments to the law that can help promote the island’s economic growth.