Is Pittsburgh’s Pension Solution Local or Not?

That’s the question that needs ananswer the day following the Mayor’s inauguration ceremony at which, when talking about how to close the gap between the assets and liabilities of Pittsburgh’s pensions, he said "our options locally are extremely limited".

Recall that just a few months ago the Mayor practically begged for independence when it looked like the state was moving toward a modest reform of municipal pension plans. Wanting a "chance to solve this locally" by leasing/selling parking garages, the bill was opened to get Pittsburgh out and the reform provisions were watered down to the point of being ineffective.

So which is it? On the one hand we see the Mayor wanting the supposedly "pain free" options of a boost to the $52 Local Services Tax (levied by a municipality on anyone who works within the municipality) or a way to wring money out of non-profits. Even if the state were to entertain a request from the City-after having been told they were going it alone on pensions-and the $52 tax were to be increased, they would likely permit it across the state in all municipalities, thus increasing taxes on City residents that the Mayor says are taxed enough already. And the non-profit community cannot conjure up money for the City without curtailing investment or cutting services to the City.

Maybe the Mayor has received initial numbers on how much the parking garage deal would net and is not happy. Remember that the City has to show the state that the pensions are at least 50% funded by 2011 in order to avoid a takeover under the provisions of the current legislation. The City wanted to meet that threshold by turning the garages over to the private sector-and the state needs to honor their decision.