Puerto Rico has a primary on June 1 and there are about 55 delegates at stake. Hillary Clinton, who generally has a strong following among Latino voters, needs as many of them as possible.
A long memo released today by the campaign promised that Clinton would deal with the “fundamental question of Puerto Rico.” On the island, there are advocates for statehood, advocates for remaining a commonwealth, and advocates for complete independence.
The memo was careful not to indicate a preference for any one particular resolution: “Hillary also strongly believes that Puerto Rico should have the status that a majority of its people want from among all of the options,” it says.
One side-note to keep in mind as the battle for Puerto Rico’s delegates plays out: Clinton adviser and superdelegate liaison Harold Ickes has a history with the island. He formerly worked as “an adviser to former Governor Pedro Rossello in the battle for statehood.”
Here’s the release:
Hillary Clinton’s Agenda to Address the Concerns of and Challenges Facing the People of Puerto Rico
Today, Hillary Clinton announced her agenda to empower Puerto Rico and improve the lives of Puerto Rican families. As First Lady and as Senator from New York – with a million constituents of Puerto Rican origin and people moving back and forth – she has worked closely with Puerto Rican leaders, felt the energy and depth of Puerto Rican culture and identity, recognized the great contributions of Puerto Rico to the United States, and honored the sacrifices of Puerto Ricans in Iraq, Afghanistan, and elsewhere. She has tried to provide a voice for Puerto Rico in the Senate, and she pledges to be a President who will give the needs of Puerto Ricans as much attention as she will give those of their fellow citizens in the States.
Enabling the Fundamental Question of Puerto Rico to be Resolved
Hillary will enable the question of Puerto Rico’s ultimate status to be resolved. Since the United States took Puerto Rico from Spain in 1898, Puerto Rico’s leaders all have wanted a form of government that provides for Puerto Rico’s national laws to be democratically determined and implemented, although they have disagreed on the options. The issue is one of basic democracy and self-determination. All people are entitled to a representative form of government at all levels. Hillary also strongly believes that Puerto Rico should have the status that a majority of its people want from among all of the options. As President, from Day One, she will make it a personal priority to work with all factions — advocates of the present status of the Commonwealth, statehood, independence, and national sovereignty in free association with the United States — and with leaders of Congress — and without any preference among the options — to enable the question of Puerto Rico’s status to finally be resolved. She will emphasize her commitment in addressing Congress — and she will enable the issue to be resolved during her first term.
Giving Puerto Ricans the Same Access to Affordable Health Care as in the States
Hillary will lift the cap on Medicaid in Puerto Rico. In the States and the District of Columbia, there are no limits on the federal payments for Medicaid as long as the federal contribution is matched locally. But there is a cap on federal contributions to Puerto Rico that limits the number of individuals and services covered. Hillary will lift the cap.
She will also provide additional Medicaid funding to Puerto Rico to expand coverage of children through the State Children’s Health Insurance Program.
Hillary will treat Puerto Rico equally in Medicare. Currently, Puerto Rico is the only jurisdiction under the United States flag where hospitals do not receive the same reimbursements for in-patient services as hospitals everywhere else, even though Puerto Ricans pay the same Medicare taxes and deductibles as their fellow citizens and Puerto Rico hospitals must comply with the same standards. Hillary will bring equality in payment rates.
Hillary will also provide for automatic enrollment of Puerto Rican seniors in Medicare Part B, which pays for out-patient physician and other services, treating Puerto Ricans the same as their fellow citizens everywhere else.
Hillary will provide universal health care in Puerto Rico. As President, Hillary will enact a truly universal health care plan that will cover the approximately half a million people in Puerto Rico who do not have coverage today and will offer quality, affordable options to the many more who are not satisfied with their current care. Hillary’s American Health Choices Plan will:
Lower costs. Puerto Ricans will receive assistance so that their premiums never exceed a specified percentage of their incomes. In addition, Hillary will cut unnecessary costs and improve the quality of care through chronic care management, electronic medical records, increased prevention, and more. Help small business. Hillary’s plan will provide assistance to the more than 150,000 small businesses in Puerto Rico to offset the cost of providing health insurance.
Assistance for Economic Activity in Puerto Rico
Hillary will provide new tax benefits for job-creation in Puerto Rico. The income gap between Puerto Rico and the States narrowed through the mid-1970s but has widened since then. Special federal incentives for investment in Puerto Rico expired in 2006, with bipartisan congressional majorities having sunset the major program and not accepting similar proposals. But Puerto Rico continues to suffer double-digit unemployment and a per capita income that is only a third of that in the U.S. Hillary will extend the wage credits, tax benefits for capital investments, and capital gains tax exclusions of Empowerment Zones, Renewal Communities,the District of Columbia Enterprise Zone, and Native American jurisdictions to Puerto Rico.
Hillary will ensure that the Domestic Manufacturing Tax Deduction continues to apply to Puerto Rico. Manufacturing in Puerto Rico is twice the factor in its underdeveloped economy that it is in the States, but faces exactly the same challenges from foreign countries. As a consequence, Puerto Rico has been hit especially hard by manufacturing job losses. Hillary cosponsored the law that has temporarily applied lower tax rates to income from domestic operations in Puerto Rico of companies based in the States. As President, she will ensure that this deduction remains in effect. Her administration will also help expand trade opportunities for Puerto Rican businesses.
Treating workers in Puerto Rico the same as in the States
Hillary will extend the Refundable Child Credit to workers with less than three children in Puerto Rico. She will sign into law a bill that she sponsored in the last Congress which would extend payments based on payroll taxes to Puerto Rican workers with one child or two children — providing assistance equivalent to that provided to working families in the States. Current law only allows Puerto Rican working families with more than two children to claim this critical financial assistance.
Hillary is also taking immediate action by fighting President Bush’s latest budget proposal to make all citizens in Puerto Rico ineligible for the assistance. If President Bush gets his way, more than 150,000 Puerto Rican families with three or more children will be stripped of assistance totaling more than a third of a billion dollars each year.
Hillary will extend the Refundable Earned Income Credit to workers in Puerto Rico without children. In the States, low-income workers without children can also receive payments based on payroll taxes. Hillary will extend the payments to Puerto Ricans as well.
These measures will help Puerto Rican businesses as well as workers.
Fighting Crime in Puerto Rico
Hillary will put more police on Puerto Rico’s streets. Hillary will restore Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS) funding, which in the past provided $155 million in grants to Puerto Rican law enforcement agencies and funded 3,675 additional police officers. She will also provide funding for programs President Bush has sought to eliminate, such as the Justice Assistance grants to improve Puerto Rico’s criminal justice system and support crime fighting activities. And she will fund the Puerto Rico-Virgin Islands High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area.
Returning Land to the People of Vieques
Hillary will have the federal government dispose of portions of the former Vieques range not needed for environmental reasons. The federal government has retained most of the land that the Navy acquired from the people of Vieques, even though most is not needed for environmental protection. Hillary will work to have the federal government give up the land not needed to protect animal or plant life, consistent with the original agreement for the closure of the range. Hillary will also ensure that all of the former ranges on Vieques and Culebra – now a Superfund site – are cleaned up swiftly and comprehensively.
Counting Puerto Ricans
Hillary will treat Puerto Rico equally in federal data collection. Federal agencies do not include Puerto Rico in all surveys, studies, and counts, which affects funding under federal programs and can affect business decisions. The Clinton Administration will survey and report on Puerto Rico equally with the States.