President Donald Trump will visit Baltimore Wednesday, his first trip to the city since taking office, the White House said Friday.
The trip is to promote so-called “opportunity zones,” which were created by a Republican-backed tax law and are designed to encourage investment in and around struggling neighborhoods. The White House said the president will attend a roundtable with local leaders and mayors.
Opportunity zones, distressed areas in Maryland and across the U.S. where investors can get tax breaks, aim to match record amounts of capital with overlooked communities. While the federal tax reform incentive has broad support, some worry it's a tax give away that will leave poor areas behind.
The opportunity zone program is one of the few aspects of the tax bill that has support from Democrats, and officials in Baltimore have said they hope to find ways to take advantage of it. Tucker said Pugh supports the special tax areas and called them “very important for Baltimore and her agenda of neighborhood investment and revitalization.”
State officials designated much of east and west Baltimore as opportunity zones this spring, along with neighborhoods such as Park Heights. The federal government has certified communities in every state and the District of Columbia as opportunity zones.
The details of the program are complex, but it involves giving investors significant tax advantages if they invest in special funds designed to steer money to projects and businesses in the zones.
The White House said the tax program is designed “to expand the economic boom to all Americans, especially those in distressed communities — both rural and urban.”
It said the opportunity zones “will bring billions of private investment and government resources to distressed communities.”
In December 2016, one of Pugh’s first actions in office was to press Trump for help with the city’s aging infrastructure. She met briefly with him at the annual Army-Navy football game, handing him a letter detailing the city’s needs, as well as a Baltimore pin.
“When he stepped out of his vehicle, I was the only elected official there,” Pugh recalled later. “He walked over to me and I said, ‘I am the mayor of Baltimore,’ and he said, ‘I know.’”
State officials have selected 149 communities around the state to be nominated as "Opportunity Zones" under the new federal tax law passed by Republicans last year. The designation is designed to draw capital to struggling neighborhoods by giving investors big tax breaks.
During the presidential campaign, he talked about immigrant gangs in Baltimore and other cities.
“You know a lot of the gangs that you see in Baltimore and in St. Louis and Ferguson and Chicago, do you know they're illegal immigrants?” Trump said during a Republican debate in 2015. “They’re here illegally. And they're rough dudes. Rough people.”
Baltimore officials disputed that gang problems were fueled in a substantial way by undocumented immigrants.