Connecting state and local government leaders

'Opportunity Zones' on Agenda for Trump, Kanye West Meeting

Rapper Kanye West speaks to President Donald Trump and others in the Oval Office of the White House, Thursday, Oct. 11, 2018, in Washington.

Rapper Kanye West speaks to President Donald Trump and others in the Oval Office of the White House, Thursday, Oct. 11, 2018, in Washington. AP Photo/Evan Vucci

 

Connecting state and local government leaders

The new economic development program is of interest to state and local leaders.

When President Trump and rapper Kanye West sit down for lunch on Thursday at the White House, they're slated to discuss a topic of interest to states and local governments: the recently created Opportunity Zones program.

Famed football quarterback Jim Brown, the president's adviser and daughter, Ivanka Trump, and his son-in-law Jared Kushner, who is also an adviser to Trump, are also scheduled to attend the meeting.

Opportunity Zones, the economic development program created by last year's tax law, was included on a list of issues the group is expected to discuss that the White House distributed.

Talking with Trump in front of reporters in the Oval Office, prior to the lunch, West made wide-ranging remarks, some of them in a monologue that lasted nearly 10 minutes.

West didn't bring up Opportunity Zones.

But he did touch on issues such as race, crime in Chicago, his business dealings, and the criminal justice system. West also mentioned a hydrogen-powered plane he suggested Trump should be flying in.

"It's more important than any specific deal, anything, that we bring jobs into America," the hip hop artist said at one point.

The Opportunity Zones program provides tax breaks for people and corporations that pour capital gains, from investments such as stocks or hedge funds, into “Opportunity Funds.” The funds are meant to be used to invest in low-income census tracts designated as zones.

Governors chose the zones, which were then certified by the Treasury Department. There are now about 8,700 census tracts, in all 50 states eligible for the program.

West hails from Chicago, in Cook County, where 181 of the 327 designated Opportunity Zones in Illinois are located.

The White House Office of Management and Budget is currently reviewing rules the Treasury Department is proposing for the program. Investors have been awaiting that additional guidance, which is seen as a key step for the program's full ramp-up.

There was no indication that the rules would be the focus of any of Thursday's discussion.

Other issues on the agenda for the lunch included workforce training, African American employment figures, manufacturing jobs, and possible future criminal conviction clemencies. 

Trump and West have had a especially warm relationship in recent weeks.

During an appearance late last month on "Saturday Night Live," the 41-year-old musician sported one of the red Make America Great Again hats favored by Trump supporters and had kind words for the president. Trump, meanwhile, called West a "genius" during an interview on Thursday morning.

West again wore a "MAGA" cap during his oval office visit.

"This hat, it gives me, it gives me power in a way," he said. "When I put this hat on, it made me feel like Superman."

This story has been updated.

Bill Lucia is a Senior Reporter for Government Executive's Route Fifty and is based in Washington, D.C.

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