Fortuno’s Puerto Rico Miracle

Thursday, 08 Apr 2010 12:15 PM

By Christopher Ruddy

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Newsmax’s recent cruise through the Caribbean was not only an adventure but also a learning experience.

One of the highlights of our trip was our stop in San Juan, Puerto Rico, and our visit with the Republican governor of the territory, Luis Fortuno.

Dick Morris and I, as well as a group of our hosts, left our cruise ship docked in Old San Juan to visit Fortuno at the nearby La Fortaleza mansion, from which he governs the tropical island.

Fortuno is a fascinating man whom we found to be not only charismatic but also a person who abides in deep core values.

The University of Virginia Law School graduate and former member of the U.S. House has a clear vision for what he wants to do for Puerto Rico and how America should be. This vision is refreshingly conservative.

Fortuno won election as governor in 2008 by 11 percentage points, becoming the first Republican governor of Puerto Rico since 1969.

Interestingly, Puerto Rico saw a GOP wave, with the governorship and the Legislature won by Republicans in the same year Obama and the Democrats swept to power.

Fortuno’s election in Puerto Rico was even more unusual because the island is heavily Democratic. It also doesn’t have alternative media such as Fox News on its major cable system.

But the public, both higher-income and lower-income, was
united and angry about one thing — the massive amount of spending and benefits lavished on public employees. Voters revolted by electing conservative Fortuno.

When Fortuno took office, he faced a whopping $3.2 billion budget deficit. Instead of seeking a bailout from Washington, Fortuno immediately froze government hiring. He also set the example by cutting pay for himself and all agency heads. He slashed his own political appointments by a third — at the same time pushing a $500 million local economic stimulus plan.

A Reaganite, he clearly sees government as the problem, not the solution. He has proposed a bill to cut the number of seats in the Puerto Rican Legislature by 30 percent.

Although it’s too early to see the results of his governorship, I believe his free-market approach will work miracles in Puerto Rico. His example should be followed in the United States.

Jose Perez-Riera, Gov. Fortuno's secretary of economic and commercial development, said corporate taxes are extremely low, ranging from zero to 4 percent, making Puerto Rico a perfect place to do business.

Fortuno told Dick Morris and me that he is moving to reduce personal income taxes, aiming for a top rate of just 29 percent. Dick Morris sees this as a huge selling point for Americans from high-tax states to open a residence in low-tax Puerto Rico.

Dick estimates that a high-income taxpayer in New York can pay as much as 53 percent in total personal income taxes. By moving to Puerto Rico, such a taxpayer could save 24 percentage points on taxes. For those with moderate and higher incomes, this differential will yield huge savings in tax payments.

Back in March, Newsmax magazine featured Fortuno in an article, “A Godsend to the GOP,” detailing the remarkable free-enterprise initiatives he is undertaking in Puerto Rico, in stark contrast to the Obama administration’s statist approach.

I believe Fortuno clearly is not only a leader who will be a success in Puerto Rico but also someone to watch on the national stage.


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