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Rubio: “If Puerto Rico misses its payment on May 1st and its debt crisis further escalates, its economy is going to stagnate even more than it already has, and the harm is going to be passed on to any community like Jacksonville that has a significant economic stake in the island’s wellbeing.” 

Washington, D.C. – Ahead of this Sunday’s debt payment deadline in Puerto Rico, U.S. Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL) spoke on the Senate floor today and continued to urge Puerto Rican leaders to get their act together and for Congress to do its part to confront the crisis. He warned of the consequences a debt crisis in Puerto Rico could have in the United States, particularly in Florida.

“If this deadline isn’t met, it’s going to cause some serious problems, and not just for the people of Puerto Rico – who let’s not forget are American citizens – but also for millions of others throughout the United States,” said Rubio. “I’ll focus on one example today of an American community that would be very negatively impacted, and that’s the city of Jacksonville in my home state of Florida.

“Jacksonville is a port city, so its residents, its businesses, and families depend in large part on trade,” he continued. “And a recent article in the Florida Times-Union detailed exactly how close the relationship is between Puerto Rico and the shipping industry in Jacksonville.

“In 2009, as much as 75 percent of the goods coming in and out of Puerto Rico flowed through the ports at Jacksonville, which brought about a billion dollars’ worth of economic impact to the city. In just the past year, between October and March, JaxPort has seen a 32 percent increase in cargo tonnage from the island,” Rubio concluded.

A transcript of Rubio’s full remarks is available below. A video is available here, and a broadcast quality video is available for download here.

U.S. Senator Marco Rubio
Senate Floor Speech
April 27, 2016
https://youtu.be/S7PrffPrZbo

Senator Marco Rubio: “I wanted to briefly discuss the issue of Puerto Rico and the debt crisis facing Puerto Rico. As you may know, Mr. President, the Island faces a major deadline coming up. A $422 million debt payment that is due on May 1st, which is this Sunday.

“If this deadline isn’t met, it’s going to cause some serious problems, and not just for the people of Puerto Rico – who let’s not forget are American citizens – but also for millions of others throughout the United States.

“I’ll focus on one example today of an American community that would be very negatively impacted, and that’s the city of Jacksonville in my home state of Florida.

“Jacksonville is a port city, so its residents, its businesses, and families depend in large part on trade. And a recent article in the Florida Times-Union detailed exactly how close the relationship is between Puerto Rico and the shipping industry in Jacksonville.

“In 2009, as much as 75 percent of the goods coming in and out of Puerto Rico flowed through the ports at Jacksonville, which brought about a billion dollars’ worth of economic impact to the city. In just the past year, between October and March, JaxPort has seen a 32 percent increase in cargo tonnage from the island.

“But this trend is likely to reverse if fiscal conditions in San Juan do not improve soon. If Puerto Rico misses its payment on May 1st and its debt crisis further escalates, its economy is going to stagnate even more than it already has, and the harm is going to be passed on to any community like Jacksonville that has a significant economic stake in the island’s wellbeing.

“We’re already seeing a massive exodus of professionals and others from Puerto Rico because of a lack of economic growth. They will likely continue leaving and heading to Florida and other places in the mainland, which will further cripple the island’s economy and reduce the demand for trade.

“So what can we do about this?

“Some have suggested Washington can deliver a silver bullet solution to help Puerto Rico out of its debt. This simply isn’t true. The reality is that nothing Washington does will be effective until Puerto Rico and its government leaders turn away from decades of failed policies.

“Their tax rate continues to be too high. Government regulations are stifling. And they are spending more than they take in. I don’t care if you’re an island, if you’re a government, if you’re a business, or if you’re a family. If you spend more than you take in and you do it for long enough you’re gonna have a debt problem. That’s what’s happening here in Washington, that’s what’s happening to Puerto Rico.

“And any time your economy isn’t growing, you’re gonna have a further problem. And no restructuring is going to solve that until they restructure the way they spend money.

“Bankruptcy protection isn’t going to solve it either, at least not without serious fiscal reforms from San Juan. Otherwise, if we grant bankruptcy protection, Puerto Rico will simply go bankrupt again not far down the road.

“That does not mean that Washington should do nothing.

“All of us need to realize that this is an American crisis. It is taking place in an American territory. It impacts the people of Puerto Rico, who are American citizens. And the impact will not be contained on the island. It will spread to cities like Jacksonville and to other communities throughout the mainland U.S.

“So we need to take the irresponsible leadership in Puerto Rico seriously. We need to urge them to get their affairs in order.

“But we should also look closely at what we can do here in the United States Senate, which may mean taking up some of the ideas currently being worked on by House leadership.

“We can also help Puerto Rico by doing the same things necessary to help the rest of the American economy. This means passing pro-growth policies at the federal level, including tax and regulatory reform. It means we need to stop spending more money than we take in.

“And in closing, the leadership in San Juan must view the deadline this Sunday as a wakeup call. They must show their willingness to get their fiscal house in order. If they don’t, our options in Washington will be very limited and won’t have support from taxpayers.

“But I think this is a wake-up call for us. This notion that ‘Somehow this issue with Puerto Rico will figure itself out,’ it’s not true. This notion that ‘Somehow this issue with Puerto Rico, it’s not that important we can put it to the side because it’s not a state,’ it’s not true.

“Puerto Rico is a territory of the United States, it’s people are United States citizens. It’s people, by the way, on a pro-capita basis, serve in the armed forces of the United States at levels as high or higher than any ethnic or geographic group in the country.

“The people of Puerto Rico deserve our voice. They deserve our action. And I commend leaders in the House for trying to do something responsible on this. I understand the Majority Leader has said once the House acts, the Senate will look at it very carefully. I know we have leaders here doing that as well.

“I urge that work to continue. We cannot ignore this crisis. Neither can the leaders in San Juan. And I hope we can find a solution sooner than later for what Puerto Rico is facing with its fiscal crisis, which this Sunday you’re going to be reading all about when they miss their debt payment.”