Bernie Sanders puts forth comprehensive plan for Puerto Rico
While lawmakers may only have until March 30 to reach an agreement that addresses the current Puerto Rican debt crisis, presidential candidates have begun to posit their own plans for the territory as well. Vermont Senator and Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders has perhaps the most comprehensive platform on the issue. While Sanders teased some facets of his plan during a Univision/Washington Post debate with fellow Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton, he has fully outlined his multi step plan on his website.
In a plan that the Huffington Post claims, “represents real hope for Puerto Rico” Sanders formally addresses a wide range of issues ranging from the environment to education reform.
The multi-point plan begins with what is perhaps the most talked about issue Puerto Ricans face: resolving the $70 billion debt crisis. On this issue Bernie advocates giving the territory access to Chapter 9 bankruptcy protections. In doing so, Puerto Rico would be able to restructure its debt. Currently this issue has been taken to the Supreme Court as Chapter 9 specifically excludes Puerto Rico.
In addition to clearing up the debt crisis, Sanders’s plans for an economically sustainable Puerto Rico include reversing certain austerity measures that hurt the most vulnerable populations (especially children and senior citizens), auditing any debt that was incurred and job creation under his “Rebuild America Act.”
To further empower Puerto Ricans, Sanders also has a clear vision for the environmental future of the territory. In his “Climate Protection and Justice Act,” Sanders looks to eliminate loopholes regarding incinerators that don’t treat trash as solid waste, but as fuel.
This would work in conjunction with the candidate’s other plans, like the aforementioned “Rebuild America Act” which also makes it easier to install and integrate renewable energy sources like solar and wind power while upgrading Puerto Rico’s current, outdated, electric grid.
In looking towards the future, Sanders also hones in on his plans for education reform in the region, claiming it is “counter-productive… that Puerto Rico’s bright young people cannot afford to go to college.”
Under Sanders’ “College-For-All” plan public colleges and universities would offer free tuition, student loan rates would be cut almost in half, students with existing loan debt can refinance their loans and more funding would be made available for existing work study programs.
The “College-For-All” plan would extend not only to Puerto Rico, but also to the entire continental U.S. and Hawaii/Alaska as well. Likewise, Bernie’s proposals for healthcare reform, which involve creating a single payer “Medicare-For-All” plan, would cover these regions giving everyone equal access and coverage to a free health care.
Sanders also takes care to put forth proposals for Vieques, an island-municipality that is a part of Puerto Rico. Sanders hopes to raise the quality of life on the island, and address socio economic development in the region, particularly in regards to the high cancer rates. While Sanders addresses that Vieques is one of the poorest municipalities in Puerto Rico, he once again takes to his message of equality in claiming that “Vieques must have access to the same economic development opportunities as the rest of Puerto Rico,” despite their economic standing.