Senator Tim Scott (R-S.C.) is considering a bill that would let state and local governments amend the census tracts that were designated as opportunity zones, according to a recent Bloomberg report.
Sen. Scott made the announcement at the United States Conference of Mayors in Washington, DC on Wednesday, where more than 250 mayors from across the country gathered to discuss improving their local infrastructure, clean energy use, creating affordable housing, and bettering education and the workforce.
The opportunity zones program was based on bipartisan legislation authored by Senators Scott and Cory Booker (D-NJ), and Congressman Ron Kind (D-WI) to incentivize private investments in certain distressed communities by offering potentially significant tax breaks to investors who reinvest unrealized capital gains in these areas.
Governors initially selected the opportunity zone census tracts, which were then approved by the Treasury Department. Scott said that under the potential legislation, local officials could change a small percentage of the tracts that were selected to receive the tax break.
“If there’s a way for us to do that, I hope that we will legislatively find common ground to re-empower governors, with the assistance of mayors, who can see where those big holes are, get back to the tables and fix that small percentage,” Sen. Scott told the publication.
In recent months, he opportunity zone program has received criticism by lawmakers on both sides of isle, and last week, the Treasury Department’s internal watchdog announced plans to launch an investigation into the program.
Senators Booker and Ron Wyden (D-OR), along with Representatives John Lewis (D-GA) and Richard Neal (D-MA), asked the Government Accountability Office to study the opportunity zones tax incentive program following what they claim were “multiple reports of possible wrongdoing by senior administration officials in implementing the 2017 tax incentive program.”
Representative Rashida Tlaib (D-MI) also sent a letter to the chairmen of multiple House committees to request investigative hearings into whether political campaign contributions influenced the designation of opportunity zones in her district and across the country. She later introduced legislation to repeal opportunity zones from the United States tax code.
Lastly, a group of Republican Senators introduced the IMPACT Act, a bill to reinstate and expand reporting requirements to determine the impact of opportunity zone investing. The bill also includes penalties for both individuals and funds that fail to accurately and appropriately file the required returns or statements and penalizes anyone who attempts to take advantage of the tax incentive for fraudulent purposes.