We are attempting to live-blog at the public hearing. Much of the discussion is well above our pay-grade.
We see a good number of probable health care executives, and very few probable outraged taxpayers.
However, three newspapers brought high-profile representation, along with one television station. Michael Lamb and staff are checking things out. Hey, there's Rauterkus.
Thomas Boyle, BI&R: "It fits under the adage: If it ain't broke, don't fix it."
"Governments are always looking for additional sources of revenue, and that's not the test."
Ed Weisgerber, K&LPGE: "Once you rip the can of worms in trying to define what a charity is, it gets very very confusing."
"The solution has worked so well with all my hospital clients, I just had another one call to say that wanted to 're-up' for another decade."
Sen. Ferlo: "I appreciate your sense of history -- if not revisionist history."
"In my view, Act 55 has been a total disaster."
"There's no dispute about the benevolence of UPMC or any of the other nonprofits ... the real kernel of the issue is the large percentage of tax exempt land."
"Nobody knows who's contributing how much. I guess you need a Ouija Board to figure it out..."
Scott Kunka, Ron Pferdehirt: Making a clear argument on behalf of city taxpayers. Act 55 has eliminated any incentives for the nonprofits to make payments in lieu of taxes. They are speaking really fast, but has a power-point presentation.
"City ambulances literally deliver customers right to their door."
1) Mandate the creation of a permanent public service foundation, as opposed to simply allowing one if desired.
2) Empower the city to levy some portion of Property Tax and/or Payroll Expense Tax on non-profits.
3) Amend Act 55 to redefine the standards for qualifying as an "Institution for Purely Public Charity" (although there isn't much detail).
Tony Pokora: Lays out how much Act 55 is "costing" city real estate taxpayers -- according to his handout, $951.11 per year. Also lays out how that has been increasing.
His recommended solutions include revenue sharing on the model of Connecticut, with mandatory PILOT payments; again a mandatory Public Service Fund; city contracts with health care institutions, and other "city perks."
Another Senator (out of four) sounds very serious about amending the Act, but is less funny and grandstandy about it than Ferlo.