Thursday, August 30, 2007

Act 55: The Lawyers & The City

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."

Proposed solutions:

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.


  1. Good to see you at the public hearing. First joke is calling it a public hearing. It was more like a post agenda.

    I blog about my impressions BEFORE the hearing, posted just as the hearing was starting.

    Next, I'll post about the outcome of the event.

    UPMC didn't need the Catholic Church spokespeople today.

    The real point is "LAND." Jim Ferlo agrees -- but his solution has nothing to do with land.

    I told this to Rich Lord: Let's increase the Deed Transfer Tax, the worst tax on the books now, to 200% of the value of the property if the transfer goes to a 'nonprofit.' Otherwise, make the deed transfer tax 0%.

    Then we can keep Act 55 as it is.

    The nonprofit footprint expansion is what is killing us. It is worse than eating our young.

  2. Good also to see you. Thank you for pointing out that I was AT the hearing; it was pointed out to me that I could have been watching on cable television, in my pajamas.

    I'll blog on the rest of the meeting later; for now let's just say the remainder had less fireworks. Jim Ferlo seems to have it in for attorneys even worse than for UPMC executives.

  3. Sadly, it didn't appear to be broadcast today on the City Channel.

  4. Hello, all. Almost four years later. Did you notice how Rauterkus referenced the Real Estate Transfer tax up there? Put that one on the list too.