Councilwoman Puts Economics Ignorance on Display

Councilwoman Puts Economics Ignorance on Display

Pittsburgh and Allegheny County are planning to revisit the issue of whether some large non-profit organizations in the City should have their property tax exempt status repealed. It is an argument that has been around awhile and a thorough discussion of the pros and cons is worth having. But as is invariably the case some politician will sally forth with an irrelevant, disturbing and illogical argument.

Enter a City Councilwoman saying that UPMC pays virtually no property taxes and commenting in a news report, "Additionally, many service workers at UPMC are not making family-sustaining wages", and continuing, "Roughly half of the service workers at UPMC make less than $12 per hour…while the living wage to support a family of four in Pittsburgh is $25.40 per hour."

First of all, when did a living wage reach $53,000 per year? That’s well above the regional average wage rate. Second, even if $53,000 a year is the family of four sustaining income, where is it written that everyone working at UPMC is the sole provider for a family of four? Third, if the skill levels of "service workers" can command no more than $12 per hour in the market place why is it the government’s job to artificially boost their wage rates? If UPMC is forced to pay higher wages, how will they make those payments? Charge more for services, offer less free health care, hire fewer workers, reduce the benefit packages for all employees?

If UPMC loses its non-profit status and has to pay millions in property taxes, where does it take the money from? Wages, benefits, free health care?

Whether UPMC should have all or parts its organization lose non-profit status is something to be debated and will probably either end up in court or require more legislation before tax exempt status is taken away. But that decision should not take into account the fact some workers do not earn $53,000. There are many non-profits with employees who do not earn that much. It is an irrelevant argument.