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
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
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