Lawmakers paint different pictures of Trump's 'opportunity zone' program

Lawmakers paint different pictures of Trump's 'opportunity zone' program
© Marissa Salzman

Lawmakers on opposite sides of the aisle painted contrasting pictures Thursday of the “opportunity zones” created by President TrumpDonald John TrumpNew Bob Woodward book will include details of 25 personal letters between Trump and Kim Jong Un On The Money: Pelosi, Mnuchin talk but make no progress on ending stalemate | Trump grabs 'third rail' of politics with payroll tax pause | Trump uses racist tropes to pitch fair housing repeal to 'suburban housewife' Biden commemorates anniversary of Charlottesville 'Unite the Right' rally: 'We are in a battle for the soul of our nation' MORE’s 2017 tax law.

Speaking at a forum in Charlotte, N.C., hosted by The Hill, Rep. Ralph NormanRalph Warren NormanHouse Dems introduce bill to require masks on planes and in airports Bipartisan bill introduced to require TSA to take temperature checks House Republicans urge White House to support TSA giving travelers temperature checks MORE (R-S.C.) praised the portion of the law that provides capital gains tax breaks to investors who make investments in designated economically distressed areas.

“[Opportunity zones] are the greatest things that have happened in this country,” Norman said at the forum sponsored by the National Association of Home Builders.

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Norman said the program encourages private developers to buy certain tracts of land while promoting investment in low-income areas.

He also rejected the argument that government grants and assistance are needed to improve the program.

“We have a job to do in getting this country out of a national debt,” Norman said. “I am not adding to $22 trillion. I wasn’t sent [to Congress] to do that.”

Rep. Alma AdamsAlma Shealey AdamsCoronavirus Report: The Hill's Steve Clemons interviews Rep. Lauren Underwood Congresswoman accidentally tweets of death of Rep. John Lewis, who's still alive Help reverse devastating health disparities by supporting the Black Maternal Health Momnibus Act MORE (D-N.C.), who also spoke at the forum, said she’s seeking to make changes to the program, which has drawn criticism from fellow House Democrats.

“I don’t want to see the intent of those opportunity zones misused in a way that the people who don’t need that tax credit to be able to use it,” Adams said.

Adams is a co-sponsor of the Opportunity Zone Reform Act, which was introduced in November. The measure would eliminate investments for casinos and would prohibit investments in stadiums, parking lots and luxury apartments. It would also declassify zones that are no longer low-income, replacing them with qualifying regions.

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The bill currently has nine Democratic co-sponsors in the House.

Adams also argued that there should be more of a focus on affordable housing. She said the federal government should put more money into grant funding.

“We have categories of people who are still without decent places to live,” Adams said.