Pittsburgh kills tuition tax proposal

Pittsburgh Mayor Luke Ravenstahl announced yesterday that he is dropping his proposal to tax college tuition. He says a number of non-profits and universities have agreed to kick in additional dollars in order to do away with the controversial idea.

Ravenstahl said the University of Pittsburgh, Carnegie Mellon University, and nonprofit health insurer Highmark Inc. had agreed to donate more to the city than previously, but would not cite a figure nor a number of years, and emphasized a planned push for state help.

An as-yet-undefined group called the New Pittsburgh Collaborative "will sit down in the early part of 2010 and come up with a strategy and a goal, if you will, on what it is we will ask Harrisburg for," Ravenstahl said at a news conference.

Ravenstahl has pledged to lobby Harrisburg for more funds for high education next year. He'll be joined by the colleges that opposed the tax on tuition. The drama over the tax -- which has been unfolding over the last two months -- is part of a larger trend in Pittsburgh of taxing non-profits.

After the state declared Pittsburgh financially distressed in 2004, the city sought $6 million annually from non-profits, which are exempt from most taxes, saying the money would help offset city services including police, trash pickup, and road maintenance.

The Pittsburgh Public Service Fund, a group of about 100 non-profits, formed in response, and contributed nearly $14 million for 2005-07. But that number has decreased, and this year, the city expects just $1.6 million from the fund.

What do you think? Was the tuition tax a good idea or should taxpayers be thankful it was killed?

Review city services on our sister site, City Howl.

Continue Reading