Puerto Rico gov: GOP tax bill ‘unconscionable’ punishment for struggling island

Puerto Rico gov: GOP tax bill ‘unconscionable’ punishment for struggling island
© Camille Fine
Puerto Rico Gov. Ricardo Rosselló is blasting Republican lawmakers’ sweeping rewrite of the nation’s tax code, accusing members of Congress of turning their backs on the U.S. territory with the new bill.  “It is devastating and unconscionable that Congress would do this at this juncture,” Rosselló told NBC News in an interview Friday. Republican negotiators unveiled the final version of their tax overhaul legislation on Friday, which they are hoping to pass and send to President Trump‘s desk by Christmas. Rosselló said that bill includes a 10 percent tax on companies’ profits abroad, as well as a 12.5 percent tax on “intangible assets” held offshore.  “They are treating Puerto Rico as a foreign jurisdiction so they are levying a full tax,” Rosselló told NBC News.  Puerto Rico’s economy has long struggled. But the situation worsened in September after the island was struck by Hurricane Maria, devastating businesses and infrastructure and prompting many residents to move to the mainland U.S. Even before that, however, a congressional task force charged with rebuilding Puerto Rico’s economy released a report last year that determined that the island “is too often relegated to an afterthought in congressional deliberations over federal business tax reform legislation.”

The task force report also advised “that Congress make Puerto Rico integral to any future deliberations over tax reform legislation.” Rosselló told NBC News, however, that the GOP’s tax bill does not take heed of that recommendation. He said that he felt that lawmakers, who had once vowed to help the island, had “turned a blind eye” to the issue. In particular, he said he was disappointed by Sen. Marco Rubio‘s (R-Fla.) decision to back the bill after GOP lawmakers agreed to expand the child tax credit under the legislation. “It is a devastating blow to the people of Puerto Rico,” Rosselló said. “Senator Rubio seemed to understand what it meant that it had a severe impact on Puerto Rico. So it is disappointing.”