- The Washington Times - Sunday, June 25, 2000

A desire to help put the American dream within reach of more impoverished communities in this country may soon have the force of law. The Community Renewal Act should provide hope to many in despair, as well as open up new opportunities for American private businesses.

The legislation offers this hope with a mix of initiatives that reduces taxes and regulatory restraints in the hope of spurring business and employment growth in depressed areas, both rural and urban. This political melting pot approach stems from initiatives from both parties. President Clinton introduced "The New Market" initiative last year. The initiative encouraged investment in poor areas of the United States that could open them up to the nation's nine-year economic boom. Meanwhile, Republican Reps. J.C Watts and Jim Talent, with the strong support of House Speaker Dennis Hastert, had previously proposed an American Community Renewal Act to empower individuals to renew the institutions of private society through tax redemptions and invitations to investment companies. Combined, the two plans focus on 40 "Renewal Communities" all over America; at least eight of the communities must be located in rural areas. State and local government would nominate communities that are subject to pervasive poverty, high unemployment and general distress. According to a General Accounting Office report, the five jurisdictions with the most serious poverty are Los Angeles, Cook County, Ill., Kings, N.Y., Wayne, Mich., and the Bronx, N.Y.

Under the act, businesses in those areas would enjoy a zero capital gains rate after five years and be eligible to write off for tax purposes or to "expense" $35,000 more in capital improvements than they can under current law. An employment wage credit of 15 percent of the first $10,000 for each community resident a business employs is also available, and firms could expense certain environmental remediation costs as well. Renovation and rehabilitation of qualified, nonresidential buildings located within a "renewal community" would enjoy a tax credit of up to 20 percent of the cost of renovation. The measure would also allow faith-based substance-abuse programs to receive federal assistance.

House Republicans and Democrats are currently working to iron out any disagreements in the legislation, and its Senate counterpart has been introduced in that chamber. By doing their part to pass the legislation, lawmakers can help low-income communities get a shot at the American dream.

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