Mayor’s False Choice Scare Tactics over Pensions

Mayor’s False Choice Scare Tactics over Pensions

In an effort to promote his plans to lease the Parking Authority facilities, Pittsburgh’s Mayor claims the City will have to take draconian measures if the lease deal is not done. To generate the $30 million the state will require the City to put into pension funds, he says there will 400 police layoffs or massive increases in taxes. On the other hand if the lease is done, parking costs at the Parking Authority facilties will double or more in some cases.

But as we noted in last week’s Brief the Mayor is presenting a false choice. There is a less costly approach but to be sure there will be some pain to the City. There is no free lunch.

Here is a better alternative. Cut the parking tax rate from 40 to 20 percent. That will allow the lease to go forward with parking cost hikes at the lessee’s spaces in the 40 percent range, which would put those parking costs close to privately owned facilities. To make up the lost revenue from the parking tax cut would require a savings of $20 million or less. That could be done with a 5 percent reduction in general fund spending. Outsourcing measures, hiring freezes and productivity enhancements could easily generate 5 percent if Council and the Mayor want to do it and have the will to do it.

An added benefit would be less upward pressure on parking rates due to the tax rate reduction. Private garages might even lower their rates a bit or earn enough profits to warrant building new facilities, something the Downtown area desperately needs.