|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.