Puerto Rico’s finances are so strained and the economy is so poor that accepting the commonwealth as the 51st state in the Union “is not feasible,” a top official in Puerto Rico’s Popular Democratic Party (PDP) told reporters Wednesday in Washington, D.C.
PDP federal affairs adviser Jose Hernandez accompanied party president Héctor Ferrer to the U.S. capital to lobby against statehood for the Puerto Rican commonwealth. Pro-statehood Resident Commissioner of Puerto Rico Jennifer Gonzalez recently filed a bill in Congress requesting statehood for the island. (RELATED: Puerto Rican Progressives Are Using ‘Rigged’ Ballots To Force The Island Into Statehood)
“I hear a lot that Puerto Ricans are not assuming the responsibility of citizenship because they are outside of the U.S. tax system,” Hernandez told reporters. “That misses the point entirely.”
Since 1898 when Spain ceded Cuba, Guam and Puerto Rico to the U.S., Puerto Rico has operated free from federal taxes, though its residents do pay into and receive benefits from some programs such as social security, according to Hernandez.
“It has been the policy of the United States Since 1898 that because Puerto Rico is a poorer economy, all of its tax revenues should go to the local treasury,” Hernandez said. “Now our budget is $9 billion. If you incorporate federal taxation and you establish a structure … similar to that of the states … conservatively, our budget would go down at least by half.”
Puerto Rico is deep in debt with $70 billion in outstanding debt and another $50 billion in pension unfunded liabilities for Puerto Rican public sector workers, according to documents given to The Daily Caller News Foundation.
“If under the current situation where we have an oversight board trying to balance the Puerto Rican budget, struggling to balance a $9 billion budget, failing to balance a $9 billion budget, how are we going to have a feasible state with a $4.5 billion budget?” Hernandez asked. “It just can’t happen. It’s not feasible.
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