Puerto Rico, Luis Fortuño and the GOP Convention

Puerto Rico, Luis Fortuño and the GOP Convention


Today, Governor Luis Fortuño will address the GOP convention. Fortuño has been a rising star in the GOP, partly because of his aggressive fiscal reforms early on in his term (2008-2012). Fortuño’s reforms have rightly been praised by publications such as the Wall Street Journal (even suggested for Paul Ryan’s current position) and are a prime example of how fiscal conservatism does not require an absolute dogma on slashing government.

Fortuño is perhaps best known for cutting down a 3 billion dollar deficit into roughly 800 million by laying off close to 24,000 public employees, freezing public wages, shrinking government, streamlining government procedures and suspending public union’s scope on collective bargaining. However, Fortuño’s affinity to the GOP did not preclude him from doing the very same thing Paul Ryan and others in the GOP did when President Obama passed the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. Fortuño utilized the ARRA funds to pump more money into education, roads and green energy (as was the case with the Puerto Rico Energy Affairs Administration). In fact, the ARRA funds were widely touted by the Administration as part of the success Puerto Rico has had following nearly a decade of economic recession. Puerto Rican think tank, Center for the New Economy (Grupo CNE) recently summarized the “Keynesian” aspect of Gov. Fortuño’s recovery, stating:

“Unfortunately for modern-day die-hard Reaganites in Puerto Rico, the economic data tells a different story. According to the Puerto Rico Planning Board, construction spending by the public sector, at current prices, grew by 11% during fiscal year 2011, and is forecast to increase by 16.8% and a whopping 22% during fiscal years 2012 and 2013, respectively. On the other hand, private construction spending, also at current prices, declined by 1.6% during fiscal year 2011, and is expected to decrease by a further 1.1% during fiscal 2012, before increasing by a meager 0.9% during fiscal year 2013.

Furthermore, according to data released by the Bureau of Labor Statistics today (April 20, 2012) total payroll employment in the island declined from 921,400 in March 2011 to 917,500 in March 2012, a decline of 3,900 jobs, or 0.4%. Private sector employment also registered a decline, from 662,900 to 650,800, a decrease of 12,100 jobs, or 1.8%. Government employment, however, increased from 258,500 to 266,700, an increase of 8,200 jobs, or 3.2%, during the same period.”

Fortuño also decided to focus on health care, overhauling the Island’s health program and increasing the program’s eligibility to include higher incomes than previously allowed. The program, Mi Salud, is a testament that health solutions do not exist solely in the realm of the market, but rather in an astute coexistence with the public and private sector.

The Republican Governor avoided legislating over hot-button social issues such as abortion and gay marriage, wisely recognizing that conservative measures on those issues provoke more drama than actual results. In fact, Fortuño has avoided legislating not only on abortion and gay marriage, but gun rights as well, focusing instead on enacting a tougher criminal code with mandatory sentencing.  Fortuño’s focus on the “bread and butter” issues for Puerto Ricans proves that Republicans can opt to focus on the economy and crime, rather than on wars of attrition on social issues (that are ultimately decided at the national level).

Governor Fortuño also demonstrates that bipartisanship can bring more results than a party-wide dogma of opposition. His running mate, and current Resident Commissioner in Washington, D.C., is Pedro Pierluisi. A staunch Democrat who chaired President’s Obama Puerto Rico Primary team in 2008, and who still is strongly involved with the President’s re-election campaign, even if his running mate is rooting for the opposing candidate. Notwithstanding, Fortuño (much like Senator John McCain had he taken his first choice for Vice President), has not let Pierluisi’s stateside political affiliation get in the way of their ticket and plan for Puerto Rico.

Former Florida governor Charlie Crist said this weekend that “an element of their party (GOP) has pitched so far to the extreme right on issues important to women, immigrants, seniors and students that they’ve proven incapable of governing for the people.” Fortuño’s leadership in Puerto Rico shows that Republican ideas can be implemented without resorting to the extremes advocated by the Tea Party (and even Paul Ryan) and without having to campaign on divisive social issues.

It will remain to be seen how much of Fortuño’s playbook is ultimately picked up by his party.


  1. PR governor was absolutely correct about how a government should be managed. His speech was wonderful and envigorating. He revived his country and brought his country back to work and prosperity. I wish I could find his written speech that he made at the convention.

    • well Elizabeth let me tell you something, I am a Puertorrican and what Governor Fortuño told all of you at the convention is just a fairy tale. we have the bigger unemployment rate in decades, local business are closing and he will not win reelection. besides we are not bilingual and most of us dont care about democrats and republicans. i do because i am a political science graduate. puertorrican politicians get involve in the usa political arena just to advocate for federal funding and grants and to advocate for a solution for the political status of the island. futhermore, if puertorricans had to choose, the mayority would choose to be democrats because half of the governor's party (the new progressive party) is democrat and the other main party (the popular democratic party) is democrat.

      • let me add something, we do not salute the american flag. actually, we dont sing the usa national anthem or swear the Pledge of Allegiance. they dont even teach it at school. the only people that have an american flag in their house are statehood fanatic advocates. the only people that really speak English are the rich people, and sadly we dont have much of them (more than 45% of our population lives under poverty levels according to federal standards).

        the governor didnt run his campaign saying he was a regan republican. he run his campaign with the following promises: 1) he wouldnt lay off not even one government employee, and 2) he would lower the electricity and water services bill (in Puerto Rico both of them are public corporations), 3)he wouldnt raise taxes. well he did the opposite. he even approved an additional tax to foreign corporations and a new taxt for homeowners (we had already taxation over property and the money went to the local governments – it is called the crim-. he created a new tax that was for the same amount of the crim but the money went to the state government.

        he havent fix the budget problems of the government of Puerto Rico. to tell you the truth he has borrow more money and our national debt is bigger now days.

        my bet is that he knows he is finished in Puerto Rico so he is trying to secure a future at the gop.

  2. GOP and Democrats Party represent almost the same thing for Puerto Rico's political cultural. Fortuño and Pierluisi are from the same local political party. They play with both parties to balance political interest. As a Puerto Rican, our major interest must be to resolve the political subordination (colonialism) as soon as posible. #PuertoRico

  3. Where does Fortuno live??? Because I live in PR and we are under the worst crime wave ever! Unemployment rate during Fortuno's tenure is at an all time high. He is going to lose re-election because of his erratic decisions and lack of vision. Fortuno is also going to lose the upcoming elections to a relatively inexperienced candidate from the opposing party (statistically so far).


  5. Unfortunately for true believers PR is in a bigger mess today than anytime before. This so called model of success and good government management has resulted in, among other things, the lowest employment participation rate ever (39%), a worsening of our fiscal standing and our debt, and an increase in the government payroll and spending through the use of contracts and other means, plus a reduction in the fiscal resorces of the government. The emperor, in short, is naked. Whoever takes over as governor in 2013, irrespective of his political affiliation, is in for a rough ride indeed. But I guess that is the price one pays when people who do not believe in governemt (an oximoron for someone who is a politician) are put in place to administer the res publica.