In state of the territory address, Rosselló promised pay increases, full recovery
On March 5, 2018 Governor Ricardo Rosselló gave the annual state of territory address, the first one following the devastation of hurricanes Irma and Maria. While the rebuilding process is still progressing, it is slow and many areas of Puerto Rico remain without power. The Governor outlined his plans for the future of Puerto Rico and his policy goals for the year and is hopeful each day will bring them closer to full recovery. While the governor laid out some plans in the speech, he was criticized for not addressing the debt crisis or updating the people on the islands’ status. His plans for the islands include increasing police pay, cutting taxes across the islands, and reforming the welfare system.
The governor proposed a pay increase for police officers of $1,500 annually. The he said, he said, was to update the technology and resources of the officers and increase the individuals on the force to counteract the uptick in killings across the islands following the storms. He also wants to allocate money to update cars and technology for the force in order to better assist the officers in completing their duties. These changes are in addition to adding more frequent patrols across the islands. He acknowledged the increase in violent crime is alarming and he thinks his proposal will help mitigate the problem, though he says there is no easy solution.
Rosselló does, however, see an easy solution to some of the islands’ financial struggles. He proposed to lower the sales and use taxes on certain foods from 11% to 7%. He is also dedicated to eliminating the business to business tax a little bit each year until it is fully phased out. Additionally, he plans to reduce individual and corporate tax rates and has applied to the federal government for the implementation of the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC). He believes that these changes will save the individuals and families of Puerto Rico on average hundreds of dollars each year which will be a great help to each individual. The cuts will be enough to help individuals but still enough to fund the government without having to reduce spending or cut pensions. The reduction of taxes is a stance he has typically taken, and has stated through interviews since taking office.
The governor also recognized some his own shortcomings in the response to the hurricanes and the recovery process. He noted specifically that there were some gaps and shortfalls in his actions and those the administration regarding the interactions with the Army Corps and restoring power as well as the incorrect death toll. He plans to work with George Washington University to investigate the real death count. Above all he assured people that he is, of course, still working towards restoring Puerto Rico’s power and infrastructure.