Post-Gazette - Expanding Opportunity


Date: Oct. 30, 2018
Issues: Taxes

By Tim Scott

When the House and Senate passed our landmark tax-reform package last year, it was done with everyday American families in mind. The typical middle-income family of four will save more than $2,000 on their taxes next year, and by doubling the child tax credit and standard deduction, we are giving families more flexibility with their hard-earned dollars.

More than 1.7 million jobs have been created since the enactment of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, and more than four million Americans have received new bonuses or wage and benefit increases. The nationwide unemployment rate is at its lowest level since 1969.

Here in Western Pennsylvania, the economic resurgence has been felt in every county, where joblessness has been driven down to historic lows and manufacturing confidence, until recently on a sharp decline, has risen to record highs.

Even with these successes, there are still communities facing economic challenges. There are hardworking families struggling to secure a brighter future for themselves and their children.

With that in mind, we are excited to showcase a lesser-known feature of the tax-reform law known as Opportunity Zones, a plan tailor-made for the nation's most overlooked towns and neighborhoods. The New York Times rightly called this provision "the first new substantial federal attempt to aid those communities in more than a decade."

How do Opportunity Zones work?

In exchange for a deferral on capital-gains taxes, investors can support a wide variety of activities in the zones for five to 10 years. This means the potential for new dollars coming in for rural broadband, charter schools, small businesses and entrepreneurs, or a number of other community-building investments.

This is a win-win for communities and investors. And it is powered from the ground up. The zones were not decided by Washington bureaucrats, but rather local communities, mayors and governors -- the people who know best what our communities need and where these investments can make a huge difference.

For many parts of Western Pennsylvania, new investment is likely to bring about new family-sustaining job opportunities that for decades could only be found miles away, which in turn will allow more young people to stay and prosper where they were raised.

Here at home, designated Opportunity Zones in the city of Pittsburgh, McKees Rocks, Stowe, Neville Township, Aliquippa, Beaver Falls, Midland, Etna, Sharpsburg and other municipalities are eligible to benefit from a flood of private-sector investment.

More than 52 million Americans live in communities such as these that face development challenges, including about 21,000 residents in the current 12th congressional district alone. Three hundred communities across Pennsylvania have been given Opportunity Zone designations. As the Treasury Department finalizes the rules over the next few months, the excitement in these areas and their potential continues to build.

We haven't created a new bureaucracy. We're not spending new money. There is no new government program -- just a roadmap to success for families who have struggled for too long. We know that it is not a lack of ingenuity or hard work that has held folks back, but rather the door to opportunity being closed.

The Opportunity Zones initiative will help kick that door open in Western Pennsylvania and in many other communities that are ready for revival across our country.

Keith Rothfus represents Pennsylvania's 12th congressional district and is running for election in the newly drawn 17th district. Tim Scott is a Republican senator from South Carolina.