Democratic U.S. Sen. and presidential candidate Cory Booker pitched the creation of opportunity zones – a facet of the 2017 federal tax cuts – as a means of social justice for historically low-income communities, including Newark where he spent several years as mayor, at the Forbes Opportunity Zone Summit Tuesday morning in Newark.
“This is a moral moment where we need to be uniting Americans for the cause of justice,” Booker said.
The city has, according to many New Jersey-level officials, as well as Essex County, Newark and business officials, undergone an economic renaissance in the past decade.
A decade ago, “If I told people what was coming [to Newark], they would not have believed me,” Booker said. “This is what happens when you create uncommon coalitions, they create uncommon results.”
Opportunity zones allow investors to shield their capital gains – money they make off their investments – from federal taxes if they invest the money into low-income communities and keep them there for a decade to help boost local businesses, housing stock, educational opportunities, and arts and culture.
New Jersey has 169 such zones, at least one in all 21 counties, spanning suburban, urban and rural neighborhoods across the state.
Gov. Phil Murphy, a Democrat, has included the opportunity zones as part of his economic master plan for the state, which he said will help New Jersey reclaim the title of the “State of Innovation,” and would replace controversial mutli-billion dollar Grow New Jersey tax breaks that expire in July.
“I’m the presidential candidate that actually lives in black and brown communities below the poverty line,” Booker said. “I find some people in opportunity zones that don’t yet have the kind of partnerships they need to understand what the opportunities are.”
“Give local leaders the chance to try new things… Give them one or two tools to make a difference,” the senator added.