Saturday, December 22, 2007

Alternative absolution...

In the interest of maintaining this reputation for “fair and balanced” opinions I am occasionally told I have, I feel the need to say that all liberals are commie weenies. Whew, glad I got that out …wait what no that’s not what I wanted to say at all …

I have to say that there is another way to look at the supposed antics of Our Mayor (his new preferred form of address) with regard to the Pittsburgh Promise. He has said he knew about the broad outlines of the UPMC contribution to the plan as long ago as six months (suspiciously around the time of the Mario Lemieux Invitational Golf Boondoggle). He also said he knew more specifics three months ago, just in time not to be able to answer specific questions about the Pittsburgh Promise and the contributions non-profits make to the city accurately during the debates. By the way, I characterized this as lying to the voters, perhaps that was a bit harsh, although I’m not sure how th-Our Mayor would suggest it be framed. But however you describe it, Outted Mayor … I mean Our Mayor did not give details with (what he describes as) the best of intentions – because UPMC told him not to release those details, presumably until December 5th. I believe th-Our Mayor suggested UPMC would have pulled their donation if he had spilled the beans early, although that stretches the bounds of credibility. Stiil, the question is, what did those interim specifics consist of? It’s possible they did not include UPMC’s request for a future tax credit on hypothetical (state legislature generated) taxes on non-profits. It’s just as possible that Jeffrey Romoff called th-Our Mayor and Roosevelt over to his place on Sunday and told them UPMC was going to make this demand, tax credits one for one on the future UPMC donations to the PP from both the city and the school board. Th-Our Mayor could be entirely blameless (this time) in terms of revealing the truth to the citizens of Pittsburgh. There is, literally, no way to know short of getting (time stamped) internal documents from UPMC or the Mayor’s office showing that, probably emails. But even without this “evidence”, I think its important to consider all the possibilities. Th-Our Mayor may have turned over a new leaf, and be trying to provide his constituency with the best governance he can. At an affordable price. I hope.

By the way, I wanted to repeat an idea I raised in my response to Char’s comment on my previous post. I suggested other non-profits, such as Highmark or Pitt or CMU, might want to try donating to the Pittsburgh Promise after next year on the off chance the state legislature might create a tax on non-profits after next year. If the legislature decided to make the tax effective the year they passed it, then these non-profits might greatly reduce their expose, by possibly taking advantage of UPMC’s deal, and avoiding both city and school board taxes. Such action by other nonprofits would greatly increase UPMC’s matching gift in the future, for the next nine years. Possibly all the non-profits in the city would do this, or perhaps many would not. But all that did would be doing the city a fair service, with UPMC’s dollar match on their dollar fifty.

And for those people who wonder why the legislature might even consider such a tax, I suggest that the issue of how poorly Act 47 addresses the long term problems of the city was raised in the last election. Our Mayor largely ignored those questions, but DeSantis raised them at least obliquely, and some blogs have talked about them. I think they got into some newspaper stories too, but those stories stopped showing up once it was clear the debates were going to be fluff pieces. The legislature could raise (yet another) special tax just for distressed cities, one on non-profits. It could be payroll, property or the legislature could just tax donations to non-profits. The tax could be used to apply specifically to long term issues, or it could just go into the legislature’s bonus fund. Personally I don’t think its going to happen soon, but if the city stays in Act 47 for another couple of years, and slips back into deficit, the legislature might start to get tired of us, and punish us by hurting our non profits.

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