Suburbanites Killing the City?

Brian o'Neill's column in yesterday's Post-Gazette accuses suburban legislators of "effete baloney" in their campaign to head off any kind of commuter tax.

His column is based on this letter to the ICA (Intergovernmental Cooperation Authority) that sets out a long set of arguments for cost reductions and other structural steps that the city should take to get itself going in a more sound direction. (That's a pdf link) There is no doubt that the letter is disingenuous at two levels when it talks about a possible increase in the $10 OPT (Occupation Privilege Tax). It's disingenous to argue, as the letter does, that non-residents already pay their fair share through "vibrancy and economic activity" and through other taxes (the amusement tax, the parking tax, and the 1% RAD sales tax). This is transparently untrue, and even more so since the letter recommends cutting back both the amusement tax and the parking tax. It's also disingenuous to suspect that suburbanites aren't willing to kick in more than the $10 annual OPT. A significant number of us would be willing to go to the $145 OPT proposed by the Act 47 team, particularly if that increase were part of a broader package that limited or eliminated proposed payroll tax increases.

But in some other respects, and particularly in its arguments that the City's problems are tied directly to debt service obligations, the letter is right on. We can't blame the Legislature for letting Pittsburgh slide into the sunset. This is a home-grown problem.


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Pittsblog 2.0 is written by Mike Madison, a law professor at the University of Pittsburgh. Send email to michael.j.madison[at] Mike also blogs at, on law and technology. Chris Briem of Null Space drops by from time to time.

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