City Appears to Oppose Charity Amendment Proposal
About a week after not taking a stance on a proposed joint resolution that would amend the state Constitution on the subject of tax-exemptions for purely public charities, the Mayor of Pittsburgh announced today he is opposed. Also weighing in on the matter is Pittsburgh City Council, which had on its calendar for today a resolution opposing the bill. It is not yet clear if the resolution was acted upon.
The debate in Harrisburg stems from a 2012 Supreme Court case that upended the legislative standard on what qualifies as a purely public charity, a class of property that the General Assembly is given permission to exempt from taxation in the Constitution currently. If the joint resolution passes this session of the Assembly it can go on the ballot for the electorate to consider. The late 2014 report from the Auditor General on exempt property in ten counties provides a short summary of the issue.
Pittsburgh’s share of tax-exempt property has grown in the last decade, from 33.7% of total value in 2004 to 41.5% of total value in 2015. But as we have pointed out before, tax-exempt property includes alot of property that is not just non-profit or charitable. And there is plenty of property that falls under categories that previous and current officials don’t want to pay taxes nor would ever ask to pay taxes. The issue is focused on hospital and health related facilities, a category that was highlighted in the Auditor General’s report. There was even a plan to extend the City’s payroll tax to charitable non-profits but nothing came of that, and it is not yet clear if the County has completed its examination of determining if non-profits that are exempt as a purely public charity are truly worthy of their exemption.