Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Mayor Ravenstahl to fight UPMC's Tax Exemptions

I.B. Tauris Blog

Flanked by new allies such as Chelsa Wagner and Michael Lamb, Pittsburgh Mayor Luke Lhatsnevar held a news conference today announcing a legal challenge to the tax exempt statuses of all 150 of UPMC's properties in the City.

"It is very clear to me UPMC is not a purely public charity," said Lhatsnevar. (1) "Enough is enough, and today is the day we start fighting back." (2)

Property and payroll tax receipts enable the City to pay for services, infrastructure and legacy costs, the County to pay for public mass transit, and public schools to pay for teachers and building maintenance. None of these things are in particularly good shape. Mayor Lhatnsevar estimates UPMC has been able to elude $200 million annually in taxes (3) although he says it does not meet the legal definition of a purely public charity (4).

UPMC officials greeted the Mayor's announcement with smarmy dissembling.

“The challenge to UPMC's tax-exempt status appears to be based on the mistaken impression that a nonprofit organization must conduct its affairs in a way that pleases certain labor unions, certain favored businesses or particular political constituencies — in other words, the way that some local governments are also run,” said Paul Wood, a UPMC spokesman. (Trib, Bobby Kerlik)

"Particular political constituencies" is industry jargon for people. The corporate health establishment has long maintained it inappropriate for governments to apply laws literally due to pressure from special interests such as people.

“If UPMC ran its affairs as poorly as some of our local governments, it would not have become the internationally known, world-class health care institution it is today,” Wood said. (ibid)

Pittsburghers may well hesitate to risk returning to the dark times of having to choose between hospitals such as Montefiore, St. Margaret, Shadyside, Passavant, McGee, Childrens and Mercy -- all of which were purchased, repackaged, sterilized and made less competitive in the process of UPMC becoming famous.

"We look forward to addressing this in a court of law rather than responding to partisan politics," UPMC said in a statement (5) reacting to the day's events.

Saying in the media that Pittsburgh sucks, that city, county and other municipal governments suck and that your public officials suck just ten minutes ago to some does not qualify as a political reaction.

The Comet has learned that later today, Mayor Lhatsnevar will hold a press conference detailing the importance of preserving the Civic Arena.

Old habits die hard. Good show.


Bill Peduto calls this a "good first step" but would not single out UPMC alone as a matter of "tax fairness". Michael Lamb issues a statement standing with the City and castigating UPMC for "harsh anti-worker treatment." Jim Ferlo highlights the closure of Braddock Hospital and levels of charity care. Natalia Rudiak seems pleased to be no longer waiting though lip service. Chelsa Wagner praises Ravenstahl's leadership and courage. Virginia Montanez is enthused about Ravenstahl's "out from under" moment and eager to see how all mayoral contenders respond. Comet Flashback: June 2012.


  1. you are invited to follow my blog

  2. Why have you reversed the mayor's last name? I think the substance of the post can stand up of its own accord. Please leave the bush-league name games to PittGirl, that's her territory.

  3. Okay Anon 1:48 we changed it in the title, but only because search engine optimization. Ginny's post is up and it is straight. Opposite day for all!

  4. How about the fact that St. Margaret's Foundation/UPMC has NEVER paid the City of Pittsburgh for the land on which UPMC St. Margaret's is located. The City of Pittsburgh residents are subsidizing and providing free land for a hospital that serves the residents of Fox Chapel and other indigent lower Allegheny Valley municipalities.

  5. I'm not a big fan of any SEIU backed action or public officials who back the leftist rathkey created union , but UPMC is off base calling this announcement " something that pleases certain labor unions..."! And good reaction time on the title change, Bram!

  6. Is there any chance of this actually going anywhere? Don't Pitt's/UPMC's friends in the state always step in in these types of things?

    It does seem like it could affect things between Lamb and Peduto, though.

  7. Look who gets upset about messing around with people's names.

  8. Wrong approaches.

    It is all about the land. Nonprofits need to shrink their total land foot print.

  9. things u hear on grant st. FOP. to endorse Wagner!

  10. FOP endorsement is garbage anyway. Most of those guys are registered Republicans anyway.

    And at this point who even wants to have their endorsement?

  11. I wonder if there will be a settlement with UPMC by the end of the year that will lock in a pretty good deal for UPMC and this entire thing is a ruse?

  12. The more organizations educate their institutional partners and constituents, and publicly, consistently call for elected officials to hold UPMC responsible to meet the criteria of the HUP test, the more chance we'll see real follow through.

    Yes, I most surely applaud and support the Make It Our UPMC Campaign carried forward by SEIU Health Care, and I also strongly urge far wider, more diverse, and independent advocacy to demonstrate this campaign to be a truly broad-based community movement.