Nelson, Soto promise new tax bill for Puerto Rico

By Paula Machado, Reporter
Last Updated: Friday, December 29, 2017, 6:24 AM EST

Sen. Bill Nelson will be in Tampa Friday afternoon to continue the conversation about Puerto Rico recovery efforts. 

Nelson and Rep. Darren Soto are targeting a provision of the new tax bill in efforts to help Puerto Rico recover from Hurricane Maria.

  • Sen. Bill Nelson, Rep. Darren Soto toured Puerto Rico this week
  • Soto: Hospital that serves 500,000 still has blue tarps on ceilings
  • Both plan to target provision in new tax bill that hurts the island

Nelson and Soto went to Puerto Rico this week to survey the ongoing recovery efforts and are sharing the details with Puerto Rican leaders in Central Florida and the Bay area.

"We talked to people in a neighborhood, they haven’t had electricity in 97 days," Nelson said. "Can you imagine people here going for almost 100 days without electricity?"

The two, both Democrats, met with Puerto Rico Gov. Ricardo Rosello. They toured a couple of places on the island to see how the recovery efforts are coming along. Soto says what they saw was not good, including blue tarps that still hung from roofs in a Bayamon hospital.

"There's water damage that's leaking through. The whole top floor, which is 40 of their 100-bed facility, is unusable," Soto said of the hospital. "They just got off a generator recently, and that's a hospital that serves over half a million people in Puerto Rico.

"These are the types of things that additional resources in the sense of urgency and Congress is going to need to happen, along with the Trump administration, to really get these emergency facilities back up and running."

Nelson and Soto both say it's important to get manufacturing back up and running on the island. Half of Puerto Rico's economy comes from manufacturing. But a provision in the new tax bill signed by President Trump last week would treat Puerto Rico as a foreign territory, taking away a major financial incentive for companies to have manufacturing on the island.

"Puerto Ricans are being kicked around like a dead dog by the activities of the Republicans in Congress," Nelson said in Kissimmee Friday.

Nelson and Soto plan to introduce a new bill in the new year to address how Puerto Rico is treated in the tax code.