December 09,2015

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Aaron Fobes, Julia Lawless (202)224-4515

Hatch, Grassley, Murkowski Introduce Legislation to Address Puerto Rico Debt Crisis

WASHINGTON – As part of their ongoing effort to provide a fiscally responsible solution to the growing financial, debt and economic crises in Puerto Rico, Senate Finance Committee Chairman Orrin Hatch (R-Utah), Judiciary Chairman Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) and Energy and Natural Resources Chairman Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) today introduced S.2381, the Puerto Rico Assistance Act of 2015.  The bill provides both responsible tax relief to workers and transitional relief to the Commonwealth without adding to the federal deficit or debt. Additionally, the legislation includes financial oversight intended to help Puerto Rico attain financial and economic stability, while respecting Puerto Rico’s autonomy. 

“Puerto Rico’s financial and economic challenges, fueled by a sagging economy and dysfunctional bureaucracy, have been years in the making,” Chairman Hatch said.  “And despite repeated attempts by Congress to clarify how the interplay between federal tax, healthcare and pension policies affect the territory’s economy, we have been unable to receive audited financial statements from Puerto Rico or adequate information from federal health officials.  Federal taxpayers and the Puerto Rican people deserve better.  With this bill, we use what limited information we have to lay out a sustainable framework to improve Puerto Rico’s finances and its economy by providing responsible tax relief to workers and transitional assistance to the territory’s government.  The Commonwealth’s problems will not be solved overnight, and I am hopeful the Administration and the leaders of Puerto Rico work with Congress to provide more transparency as we work to further address the current financial challenges.”

“Puerto Rico’s fiscal problems are the result of too much government spending and mismanagement,”Chairman Grassley said.  “So, the question has always been how we help Puerto Rico help itself, with the information we've been provided, while ensuring that people like the 16,000 Iowans who invested their hard-earned money in Puerto Rico’s tax free electric utility bonds, for example, aren’t left holding the bag.  We need to make sure that Puerto Rico doesn’t find itself in the same situation in the future.  This comprehensive bill should help ease the current liquidity crisis while creating a path that can lead Puerto Rico back to long-term fiscal responsibility.”

“The Financial Responsibility and Management Assistance Authority contained in this bill strikes the appropriate balance between respecting Puerto Rico’s sovereignty and providing a firm backstop to ensure the necessary financial reforms are implemented,” Chairman Murkowski said. “This will not only help Puerto Rico meet its immediate liquidity issues and give it the tools necessary to restructure, but also protect investor confidence.”

Earlier this year, the Senate FinanceJudiciary and Energy and Natural Resources Committees held congressional hearings to examine the debt crisis in Puerto Rico and gain a better understanding of the territory’s financial health. Despite repeated calls for audited financial statements, limited information regarding the fiscal and financial state of Puerto Rico has been available. The Puerto Rico Assistance Act of 2015 works to address the current financial crisis and provide relief to the people of Puerto Rico. The provisions were based on currently available financial data and information from federal health officials for the territory.

Bill text for the Puerto Rico Assistance Act of 2015 can be found here.

A summary of the bill can be found here.