Thursday, May 04, 2006

Drama Queen

Today is the fourth day that Puerto Rico is shut down due to a financial crisis and a stalemate between the House and the Governor on what should be done. The Governor has said that he will approve nothing less than his proposed plan - a loan of $531 million dollars from the Government Bank and a sales tax of 7%. And he finds nothing better than to stage a drama West Wing style literally.

Legislators are accusing Governor Anibal Acevelo Vila of copying an episode of the NBC drama The West Wing, in his march yesterday from the Governor's Mansion to the Capitol. The episode showed Martin Sheen, as the President of the United States, dramatically marching towards the Capitol after a three day stoppage in the country. In the episode "the President" is facing an unpopular moment with a government in crisis and closed government offices. He even greets tourists much like the Governor did, and walks all the way up to the office of the Speaker of the house.

Legislators, already insulted by the continued blame on behalf of the Governor, have accused Anibal Acevelo Vila of treating the crisis (or should we say milking the crisis) as a spectacle in order to reverse public opinion and make the situation out to be about good guys and bad guys. He of course is the "good guy" and his plan the perfect solution.

Bear in mind in Puerto Rico there is no sales tax. There is an excise tax of 6.6% imposed on certain incoming products, but this is transparent for the consumer. The price you see on a product is the price you pay. Now the governor wants the people to pay 7% more on everything - as if things weren't already expensive enough in PR.

In addition Puerto Rico has extremely high state income tax - so people would be faced with literally less disposable income if this measured is approved; seven percent less to be exact. While you may be saying, "well that's how it is in the States", Puerto Ricans average income is much less than in the states while the cost of living is equal and in some cases rising. So a 7% reduction in your income is a BIG DEAL.

I don't have a solution for this deficit created in the past six years, where both PPD administrations have been in government, and where utilities have almost doubled in their charges to consumers. However, a loan is not the solution; that's only a patch. Major reform is needed so the island won't fall into a $740 million dollar deficit and $1billion dollar debt. Where agencies have to be closed down including the Public Education system. Why the governor is so insistent in a loan is beyond me; they need to look at long term solutions not at patches.

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