WASHINGTON – Puerto Rico Gov. Ricardo Rossello told PJM that he is ready to meet with President Trump to discuss the Puerto Rican government’s “bold approach” to its financial future.
“I’ve met with several of the administration, met with Treasury, met with OMB [Office of Management and Budget], met with [Health and Human Services] Secretary Price and looking forward to meeting with any and all members – and, of course, if the president has the opportunity I would also like to talk to him about the path forward for Puerto Rico,” Rossello said during an interview at the National Governors Association (NGA) winter meeting. “It’s a bold approach. We’re being very aggressive but we’re certainly going to need collaboration from the states.”
PJM asked Rossello, the leader of Puerto Rico’s statehood-advocacy New Progressive Party, if he thinks he could find common ground with Trump.
“I think so. I think it’s a matter of showing that we’re being very bold. I mean, our taxing policy in Puerto Rico, the one that we’re implementing is very similar to what the president has established,” he replied.
“We’re being very aggressive on the fiscal side and it does become a national problem, not only on a personal level or in a moral sense but economically, if Puerto Ricans flock to the states and the federal government has to spend more there and the state governments have to spend more money there – so I think there will be pragmatic issues that we can agree upon and I’m looking forward to that,” the governor added.
Rossello explained that Puerto Rico plans to reduce the number of government agencies to 35 from 131.
“Right now we’re following through with a fiscal plan, we’re making ends meet, we’re being very fiscally responsible. We have a platform to reduce a huge government structure of about 131 agencies to about 35, but we’re still treated very unequally in terms of healthcare. And it’s a problem not only for Puerto Rico, but it’s also a problem for the states where Puerto Ricans flock to because it becomes a bigger burden there,” he said.
“So I think it is an important feature, and my message is in Puerto Rico we changed the narrative. Now we’re working to change a lot of the fiscal issues, the lack of growth that we’ve had, but we’re still going to need some collaboration with the federal government in terms of healthcare,” he added.
Puerto Rico’s total debt is about $70 billion. Rossello said healthcare is the main issue for which the island would like help from the federal government.
“The Affordable Care Act (ACA) funding for Puerto Rico was significantly less than for any state in terms of its population, so it sort of put us in a difficult position. And what we’re asking is for a bridge, and then consideration to have equal treatment relative to other states in terms of whatever healthcare policy ends up being, whether it stays as Affordable Care Act or if it’s changed into something else,” he said.
Rossello said Puerto Ricans are going to have an opportunity to vote on statehood again in June. Rossello told PJM the preliminary paperwork for the referendum was just submitted during his visit to Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ office in Washington.
“It’s a priority as well, and we were here in the attorney general’s office submitting preliminary paperwork so we can push forward a federally mandated plebiscite in Puerto Rico. It will be on June 11,” he said.
“So Puerto Rico has already chosen previously that we want to become a state. We would be reiterating that fact, and I will be pursuing that very aggressively, so we can attend to the root causes of the problem, which is that Puerto Rico is a colonial territory.”