According to a recent report by ProPublica, the Rybovich super yacht marina was included by former Governor Rick Scott of Florida in a tax-break zone through a program designed to help fund poor communities following lobbying from owner Wayne Huizenga Jr., the son of billionaire Wayne Huizenga Sr., and past donor to Mr. Scott.
The program was initially designed to partition low-income neighborhoods into so-called ‘Opportunity Zones’. Investments made within these zones would not be taxed on any capital gained from the investments, with the stated aim of “incentivizing investment in the zones.”
In practice, however, the program has often allowed for tax-free investments in wealthy pockets adjacent to low-income areas that were also included in the designated zones. Aside from the Rybovich marina, the law has provided funding for developments in high-income areas in cities such as Indianapolis, Miami, Portland, Philadelphia, and Houston.
Sacramento has opportunity zones in several genuine low-income areas, however has also designated Census District 11.01 for tax-free investing, an area that includes the upscale Lavender District and active areas near the newly-developed Golden One Arena.
Recent attention has been given to the issues of Opportunity Zones in the form of recent legislation by Senator Ron Wyden of Oregon. A letter has also been written by House of Representatives member Bill Pascrell Jr. to Secretary of the Treasury Steven Mnuchin after allegations by the New York Times that he benefited as a private investor from Opportunity Zone tax incentive regulations made by his own department, the Department of the Treasury.
“The program needs to be tweaked”, says South Carolina Representative James Clyburn, “or it needs to experience its funeral.”