As the Senate and House tax plans head to conference committee to reconcile tax plan differences, major religious leaders from Puerto Rico are asking Congress to protect the island from new proposed taxes. Metropolitan Archbishop Roberto O. González Nieves, OFM of the Catholic Archdiocese San Juan de Puerto Rico and Puerto Rico Bible Society Secretary, Reverend Heriberto Martínez-Rivera wrote to Congress with their concerns.
"If Congress treats American citizens living in Puerto Rico differently than American citizens living in the 50 States by treating our island as a foreign jurisdiction, we believe recovery for our island home will be nearly impossible," wrote González and Martínez-Rivera in their letter to Congress. "We respectfully request that all Members of Congress ensure that a final tax reform plan does not impose new excise taxes on Puerto Rico."
Working with Jubilee USA and US religious groups, the Archbishop and Evangelical leader have engaged Congress for nearly two years to move policies that promote economic growth and reduce the island's crippling debt load and high child poverty rate. In the recent letter they wrote to Congress, they noted that tens of thousands of American jobs could be lost in Puerto Rico if the Senate and House conference committee did not strip the excise tax from final legislation.
"If Congress fails to remove this excise tax in their final tax package, it is just like hitting Puerto Rico with another hurricane," said Jubilee USA Director Eric LeCompte who advises Puerto Rico's religious leaders and serves on United Nation expert groups. "Before the hurricanes, we were dealing with a severe financial crisis and almost half of all Puerto Rican kids were living in poverty. We are now dealing with a full blown humanitarian crisis that Congress can make better or even worse."