Congressman Palmer (R-AL) offered an amendment to H.R. 5278, the Puerto Rico Oversight, Management, and Economic Stability Act (PROMESA), exempting Puerto Rico from the Jones Act.
"The Puerto Rico crisis is mostly one of Puerto Rico's own making, but Congress is not blameless," said Palmer. "We do need to act, but in a way that frees Puerto Rico from economy stifling regulations to the maximum extent possible to allow them to rebuild their economy. The Jones Act exemption helps Puerto Rico, a U.S. territory with limited access to cheaper transportation such as trains or trucks, by reducing prices for goods transported by water. Two Puerto Rican economists found that from 1991-2010, the Jones Act cost Puerto Rican residents $16.4 billion. For example a vehicle costs $6,000 more in Puerto Rico than on the mainland, and food is twice as expensive as in Florida."
Exempting territories from the Jones Act has been proven as a stable, successful way to improve a territory's economic environment. Three U.S. territories have currently been exempted from the Jones Act strengthening their economies and encouraging business development. The U.S. Virgin Islands were exempted in 1992 and today shipping costs from the mainland are nearly half that of Puerto Rico. If exempted, Puerto Rico's power companies would be able to replace foreign-sourced oil with cheaper, cleaner, U.S.-sourced natural gas. Manufacturers in Puerto Rico would also no longer be at a cost disadvantage relative to Asia and other Latin American countries when shipping goods to the U.S.
"Relief from the Jones Act would allow the cost of living in Puerto Rico to decline, allowing residents to stretch their wages further than before," said Palmer. "If Congress wants to help Puerto Rico we must provide them with opportunities to better their economy and lower their cost of living, not bail them out without any forward thinking solutions."