Thursday, April 2, 2009

Tread Lightly

Does Michael Lamb want to put the Pittsburgh Promise up for sale? He wants to ask the state assembly to tax non-profits in the city of Pittsburgh. (Why hasn't anyone done this before?) However, this is clearly a fine line to walk. UPMC is to Pittsburgh is like China is to the USA. We're indebted to them and vice-versa, but ultimately at this point, they hold a lot of the cards.

Over the next 10 years, UPMC, the region's uber-employer, has promised to donate a ton of money to the Pittsburgh Promise, but from the beginning they have been threatening to withhold their generous contributions if Pittsburgh pursues taxing non-profits. However, UPMC theoretically has the ability to pull its money out for any reason - the bad economy, sinking profits, a bad night's sleep. US Steel's recent pausing of work on the Clairton coke plant is as harsh a reminder as any that corporations often break promises. Taxes are a lot more reliable. And theoretically, there's nothing stopping the city redirecting tax money towards the Pittsburgh Promise. Of course, as long as Ravenstahl is in office, I expect any extra money to be diverted towards trash cans.


Bram Reichbaum said...

If we start taxing the nonprofits, can't we choose to funnel some of the tax revenue we receive from them into the Promise? That is, if we're still into it?

Mark Rauterkus said...

I have a different approach for the nonprofits and the Pittsburgh Coop ask / demand.

I think it is silly to tax wages.

Rather, we need to contract the overall land holdings of the nonprofit sector. That could be negotiated with clever public leadership.

More at:

Pittsburgh Conservative said...

The US/China analogy is a great insight.

However, China is not indebted to the US at all; it just wants it to keep functioning long enough to cash out its US treasuries and establish its own currency. Likewise, UPMC is wringing every last dollar out of Pittsburgh until it can cast it aside for Ireland, the Middle East and Asia.

In the meantime, that translates into fealty to UPMC's outrageous demands. So they withdraw their craven support for the Pittsburgh Promise with its attenuated likelihood of success? A straight-up tax on non-profits would (a) flush them out into the open and (b) mitigate the heavy burden that Pittsburgh the city carries for being the region's non-profit hub.

Seems like a fair trade to me.