PDP House minority leader calls on NPP to reject oversight board’s property tax recommendations

By John McPhaul

Popular Democratic Party (PDP) Rep. Rafael “Tatito” Hernández Montañez called on the Speaker of the Puerto Rico House of Representatives Carlos “Johnny” Méndez Nuñez and the New Progressive Party (NPP) majority to reject the recommendations made by the Financial Oversight and Management Board for changes to the island’s property tax system.

“The Board’s proposal shows how alienated they are from the economic and social reality of the island,” Hernández Montañez said. “It can’t be possible that they would expect the neediest to pay more for their houses, many of them unrepaired or still with blue [tarp] awnings and whose owners do not have the necessary financial resources to live because they do not have a secure job.”

Hernández Montañez noted that in March 2019 he denounced the intention of the governing NPP administration to force the poorest to pay taxes when the demographic data of the country revealed fewer inhabitants.

“At that time I stated that there were just fewer people, but many of the companies have [since] left and there is less economic activity, so burdening the taxpayers’ pockets more with an additional $1 billion in property taxes was not the solution,” he said.

“Once again, this idea of imposing more tax burdens on our people through a residential property tax resurfaces. On this occasion, the NPP Legislature cannot ignore it and again pretend to place all the blame on the Board,” the PDP legislator said. “They have to act and completely oppose it.”

Hernández Montañez also said “the NPP has to recognize that its public policy of taking $450 million from the municipalities failed.”

“They bankrupted the municipalities and caused the people to suffer unnecessary needs because they did not have the guts to stand up to the Junta,” he said. “Now, they cannot allow a tax to be imposed on the roofs of the poor as a remedy for the bad decision to bleed the municipalities.”

The leader of the PDP in the House highlighted the following reforms recommended by the oversight board:

* The reduction of exemptions and exceptions, which is the equivalent of all properties being taxed.

* That Puerto Rico should improve the uniformity of the effective tax rate on residential property and evaluate the increase of this rate for commercial property. This eliminates the fairness of the progressive system, increasing contributions of all, and in a greater proportion of employers who today cannot even pay their payroll.

“Undoubtedly, these proposals are wrong and are far from the current reality of a country that is facing the greatest economic crisis in its history, especially in the face of a pandemic that has caused the closure of hundreds of small and medium-sized companies, the unemployment of thousands of workers and the loss of homes by families that have no sources of income,” Hernández Montañez said. “My call to the NPP majority is to forcefully reject this absurd plan by the Board and to prevent our people from continuing to suffer the abuses of this fiscal entity.”

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