by Tom Schatz
On Independence Day, 3.7 million Puerto Ricans will be celebrating America’s birthday, but they would also like to be reveling in their own liberation. Twice in the past five years, a majority of Puerto Ricans have voted in favor of becoming a state, rather than remaining a territory or being a sovereign nation. On the campaign, President Trump said that Puerto Ricans should be able to determine their own political status, and Congress should follow through on whatever the people decided.
There are 36 cosponsors for the bipartisan Puerto Rico Admission Act of 2018, including the chairmen of the House Natural Resources Committee and its Indian and Insular Affairs Subcommittee. The legislation would create a task force to determine which laws needed to be amended or repealed before the territory can become a state, and recommend economic measure that would aid the transition.
Granting statehood to Puerto Rico would provide many benefits. The Government Accountability Office found that “statehood could eliminate any risk associated with Puerto Rico’s uncertain political status and any related deterrent to business investment.” It also reported that statehood would increase both federal revenue and spending, but the complete fiscal impact would be determined by the “terms of admission, strategies to promote economic development, and decisions regarding Puerto Rico’s government revenue structure.”