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Posted 25 Jun 2001   For week ended June 22, 2001
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Sent on Mormon-News: 23Jun01

By Rosemary Pollock

Hansen Stands By Puerto Rico Comments That Brought Criticism

WASHINGTON, DC -- Amid protests and demands for an apology, Rep. Jim Hansen, R-Utah, is not backing down from his comments during a National Public Radio interview last week. Comments came in response to President Bush's remarks that called for recommendations to close the Puerto Rican island of Vieques to live fire exercises. Hansen called Puerto Rico a welfare state and the citizens recipients of big federal money who are not required to pay taxes.

"They sit down there on welfare and very few of them paying taxes got a sweetheart deal. I just don't really see the equity in it, but maybe I don't understand it," Hansen said in his controversial remarks.

Puerto Rican newspapers covered the story and carried a reply from Puerto Rican Rep. Jose Serrano, D-N.Y. "We have not moved to either grant them national sovereignty or make them a state. It allows for insulting comments, the gut feeling that 'those people' are not part of us and should be kissing our feet," Serrano told The Associated Press.

Hansen's office was prepared with a fact sheet of the special breaks that Puerto Rico receives. Hansen said Puerto Rico receives $12 billion in direct federal expenditures while paying no federal income tax. Spending for federal education is expected to be more than $630 million next year under a new education bill. This total represents more than the amount that 43 states receive, and more than the $71 million that Utah is expected to receive.

Hansen believes with all this funding, Puerto Rico should help share in the responsibilities with national defense. "But the governor down there wants it both ways," Hansen said. "I look at it this way, there are 33 test and training ranges in the lower 48 states. We have one (in Utah)," Hansen explained. "Many of them have people living closer than they do at Vieques. Even in Utah (at the Utah Test and Training Range) there are some people closer."

Hansen, a member of the Armed Services Committee, has long pushed to protect test and training ranges from incursion. While awaiting another hearing on military ranges scheduled for next week, Hansen complained that fellow Utahn, Karl Rove, recommended closing Vieques to score political points with Hispanics.

"I plan to ask the military where on the East Coast they can now go for live fire exercises. I know the answer, nowhere. I worry about the young people we would send into battle without that training." Hansen added, "I feel the folks in Puerto Rico should carry their share. Their National Guard units even train in Oklahoma."


Hansen stands by words
Deseret News 21Jun01 T2
By Lee Davidson: Deseret News Washington correspondent


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