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Should Puerto Rico Become Our 51st State?

NEW YORK, NY – JUNE 10: Revelers celebrate while walking down Fifth Avenue during the Puerto Rican Day Parade on June 10, 2012 in New York City. The Puerto Rican Day Parade draws hundreds of thousands and was first celebrated in New York City in 1958. (Photo by Allison Joyce/Getty Images)

In recent months there has been a resurgence by the Puerto Rican populus to become the fifty first state in the union. Puerto Rico became a self-governing commonwealth of the United States on this date in 1952.

On December 11, 2012 Puerto Rico’s Legislative Assembly enacted a resolution to begin the process of statehood.

Becoming a State

On November 6, 2012 voters approved a referendum to end its status as a territory and begin the process to becoming a state. There were three options that Puerto Rico could take — Statehood, Independence or become a Sovereign Nation thus breaking all ties to the US.

Voters were asked two questions on their ballots. One, do you approve or reject the current status as a commonwealth, or territory. Voters rejected that option by a very narrow vote of 54 percent to 46 percent.

The second question asked to choose their preferred status for Puerto Rico and 61 percent of those who made a choice chose statehood. Thirty-three percent voted for a nation of free association with the US and 5.5 percent wanted outright independence.

Roadblocks

There are a few. One is the United States Congress. They would have to approve statehood for Puerto Rico and as we’ve seen getting 435 people to agree on anything has not been very successful.

And there are factions within Puerto Rico that also are opposed to changing the status quo. The New Progressive Party that favors statehood has filed a lawsuit against the territory governor and the executive director of Federal Affairs for soliciting negative votes within the US Congress.

Current Status

Citizens of the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico are not allowed to vote for president and their representation in Congress is limited to a nonvoting representative. They do contribute to Social Security, and are eligible for most welfare benefits while paying zero income tax. Their citizens have also served in the military for many years.

Some Final Thoughts

I really don’t have a dog in this fight. However, it does seem that to have a commonwealth of citizens that are receiving benefits but not paying their share of the tax burden seems a little odd to me. Seems a little like “Representation without taxation.”

The three million plus population of Puerto Rico would place them between Oklahoma and Connecticut. Assuming that 40 percent would probably be on the tax roles that might buy a few million food stamps.

We went through a similar scenario with Hawaii. Native Hawaiians believed that over time they would lose their culture and history as they were assimilated into the US culture. For the most part thankfully that didn’t happen.

So what are your thoughts on this topic? Do we need a 51st state? We’d have 102 Senators and it would add five more representatives to the mix. Could make it easier or harder to hit the 60 vote super majority in the Senate. Five votes in the house could make a major difference in our spending bills. It’s sure something to think about. How would you want Baucus, Tester and Daines to vote on this topic?

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