"Don't look a gift horse in the mouth."Yeah, UPMC's legal rep actually said that to Pittsburgh City Council. Of course, it's looking like the gift horse is more of the Trojan variety, but it was better than what the Mayor's Office had to say at the Council meeting which was exactly nothing. No one bothered to show up from the Ravenstahl Administration today (after asking Council to fast track the bill).
- Robert Cindrich, chief legal counsel to the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center
City Solicitor George Specter was there as the Administration's counsel...or is that as Council's counsel...or...who the hell knows! Council President Doug Shields tried to nail Specter down on that point, as well as who exactly negotiated the UPMC Strings Attached Promise and when, but he didn't get any further with that inquiry either.
In addition to Councilman Bill Peduto's plea that Council cannot give a special right to an individual, corporation or non profit, lots of words were thrown around from various Council members describing the UPMC Strings Attached Promise. They included:
"pig in a poke"
IMHO, they all applied only too well.
The main point seems to be that UPMC wants to say that their giving a gift to another non profit (The Pittsburgh Promise) is the same thing as their paying taxes to the city. Or, to look at it from another angle, UPMC wants a right that no one else has: to designate exactly what their (possible future) taxes would pay for. Still another way to look at it is that UPMC is trying to stick the city with the bill for their "gift."
UPMC kept saying that they didn't want to pay twice -- as if a "gift" to a charity should somehow excuse them from paying local taxes. It doesn't for anyone else of course. Cindrich kept saying that they were not asking for a tax credit or deduction. However, he made it clear that if they were ever taxed, they would deduct the amount that they would have to pay in taxes from the amount that they had promised to The Promise.
Now, UPMC can reap much benefits from being able to say that they donated money to pay for secondary education for Pittsburgh public school kids -- makes a nice commercial, no? Compare that to simply having an extremely profitable behemoth merely paying their fair share to the city's tax base. Where's the glory in that?
Come to think of it though, they may be on to something. Can I give my federal tax bill payment to moveon.org instead of to Bush's War on Iraq? OK, OK, better not to even think about messing with the IRS. How about starting small? I demand that none of my city tax payments be used towards paying Clowncilman (and Luke's Best Boy) Jim Motznik's salary. I could live with that!
(Thankfully, the bill will be held until after a Public Hearing.)