U.S. Rep. Ginny Brown-Waite "reluctantly" voted for President Bush's economic stimulus package this week, and her reasoning is prompting discord.
The Brooksville Republican questioned the bill because it did little to help senior citizens who live on Social Security. Instead, she said in a news release this week, it gives tax breaks to those who don't pay federal income taxes, such as current residents of Puerto Rico and Guam.
Brown-Waite called them "foreign citizens."
"The bill sends hundreds of millions of dollars to people who do not pay federal income taxes, including residents of Puerto Rico and territories like Guam," she said in the news release. "I do not believe American taxpayer funds should be sent to foreign citizens who do not pay taxes.
Residents of Puerto Rico were granted U.S. citizenship in 1917. Likewise for residents of Guam in 1950. They pay Social Security taxes and other federal levies, though not federal income taxes.
Brown-Waite spokesman Charlie Keller said Thursday that she knows that they are U.S. citizens, and acknowledged the false characterization.
But, Keller said, "it has nothing to do with people themselves," he explained. "It has to do with the state of federal taxation."
Some area residents of Puerto Rican ancestry objected to her comments.
"Using that term foreign, that is too bad," said Noemi De La Rosa, a Spring Hill resident. "They are part of the U.S. and they do pay taxes - a lot."
About 26,000 citizens of Puerto Rican ancestry live in the 5th Congressional District, according to the latest U.S. census estimates from 2006.