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UPMC-Highmark Impasse Prompts Bill Requiring Non-Profits to Pay Taxes on Land

UPMC-HighmarkEarlier today, I announced my intent to introduce legislation that will require non-profits to begin paying taxes on the land value of real property owned by the organization.

It has become very clear, particularly in light of the ongoing dispute between the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center and Highmark, that there are non-profits out there with no concern at all about contributing to the common good or lessening the burden on government and taxpayers. Instead it’s about their bottom line. In fact, UPMC’s president was recently quoted as saying the decision to no longer negotiate was based on the “realities of competition.” If that is indeed the case, why should taxpayers pay more to boost any non-profit’s bottom line?

The legislation that I am proposing would require all non-profits to pay taxes on the assessed value of their land only (no buildings), but would exempt the first $200,000 of total land value. The exemption would not be on a per parcel basis, but would instead apply to all properties owned by the non-profit.

I have been working on legislation to address ongoing issues and concerns with the lack of voluntary payment agreements between non-profits and their host municipalities since 2008. The law that governs non-profits – the Institutions of Purely Public Charity Law – allows non-profits to enter into voluntary agreements to defray some of the costs of local government services. Since the law’s passage, however, there have been fewer and fewer voluntary agreements – and the ones that do exist have declined in the amounts over the years. This is another reason that we should be looking at this issue. Like most Pennsylvanians, the non-profit sector has been affected by the recession, but by stopping or decreasing these payments, the non-profit sector ends up putting an even greater burden on taxpayers. The system lacks uniformity – which is what the current law was supposed to fix.

Do not misunderstand me. Tax exemptions aren’t frivolous. Many non-profits provide services that the government would otherwise have to perform. In fact, many of these institutions are central to the revitalization of the communities in which they are located. My legislation attempts to address the imbalance created by organizations where profit is clearly their driving factor. Each day we see non-profits in the community buying up real estate, expanding, getting bigger and bigger while making decisions that actually harm our communities. Asking them to pay taxes on only their land value starts to address that inconsistency.

A Senate Democratic Policy Committee hearing held last year on previous legislation raised several issues to be addressed in the legislation, and resulted in my re-working the bill. Although not perfect, I believe that re-introducing the bill now allows the General Assembly the opportunity to debate and discuss this issue with the input of all stakeholders and to make improvements that can resolve this issue once and for all.

The co-sponsorship memo for the legislation is currently being circulated in the Senate. I expect to file the bill for introduction before the end of September and am hopeful that the committee to which it is referred will take a serious look at this issue and my legislation.

Kids’ Campaign to End Hunger

Kids' Campaign to End HungerThe Greater Pittsburgh Community Food Bank is calling all children to get involved in their community by joining the Kids’ Campaign to End Hunger. The campaign encourages kids to help other kids struggling with hunger. Unfortunately, there are children living in our region that do not get the food or nutrition they need day in and day out. The Food Bank offers several examples of ways children can help:

  • Pennies for Peanut Butter encourages kids to fill an empty peanut butter jar with spare change that is lying around the house and car and donate the money to the Food Bank.
  • If you have a birthday party or another get together, invite your friends to bring canned food items. During the party you can make a card or poster about your collection and send it to the Food Bank (click here).
    Hold your own food drive. Whether it’s in your neighborhood, at school or church, or with members of your scout or sports team, the Food Bank can always use supplies.

For additional ways children and teens can take action, visit the Kids Campaign to End Hunger page on the Food Bank’s website. You can also share your story with the Food Bank and inspire others to join the fight to end hunger.

Did You Know…

Did you know that one in six Americans struggle with hunger each day?
As part of Hunger Action Month, the Greater Pittsburgh Community Food Bank
has come up with 30 different ways people can take action to fight domestic hunger throughout the month of September.

Heidelberg Oktoberfest

OktoberfestHeidelberg’s first ever Oktoberfest is just around the corner and the Borough’s Recreation Committee is still looking for craft vendors interested in participating, along with event volunteers. Oktoberfest will officially be held Saturday, October 1st from 1:00 – 7:00 p.m. In addition to crafts, there will also be many local bands, food, beer, hay rides and children’s activities.

If you are a vendor and want to register for the event, contact the Borough Manger at 412-276-0363 or click here for a vendor form. Anyone interested in volunteering should attend the monthly Recreation Committee Meetings that are held on the third Tuesday of each month at 6:15 p.m. at the Borough Building. Visit the Borough’s website for more information.

Carnegie Arts and Heritage Festival

Carnegie Arts and Heritage FestivalThe 24th Annual Carnegie Arts and Heritage Festival, a family friendly end of summer event, takes place this Thursday through Saturday along East Main Street between Washington Avenue and Elk Avenue in Carnegie. Some of the main attractions include three days of local rock, blues and alternative music (including a Battle of the Bands on Saturday); a marketplace featuring artwork, jewelry and apparel; a family fun and entertainment area featuring various activities, games and events; and a food court serving up local and international cuisine. This event has become an annual community tradition attracting thousands of visitors each year. For more information on the Festival and its many attractions visit the Carnegie Arts and Heritage website.

Girls of Steel Robotics Team Seeking New Members

Girls of Steel RoboticsGirls of Steel is holding an open house this Saturday, September 10th, for teens interested in getting involved in robotics and perhaps joining the team. The open house will be held from 1:00 – 3:00 p.m. at Carnegie Mellon University, Gates Center for Computer Science, room GHC 2109. In case you’re not familiar, Girls of Steel is a team of young women that will compete in the annual FIRST (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology) Robotics Competition.

Saturday’s event is open to anyone interested in learning more about the Girls of Steel Robotics Team or the FIRST Robotics program, including students, family members, teachers and potential sponsors. Attendees will find out what it’s like to be part of the team, and have the opportunity to see robot demonstrations. More information about the event and the team can be found on the Girls of Steel website.

Around the District

Following is a list of just a few of the activities going on in the district this coming week. If you have an event that you’d like to have highlighted, please e-mail the details.

All of September Hollywood Theatre Schedule

Wednesday, September 7th

11:00 a.m. Chalk Artist Performance for Gary Means
Through 2 p.m. – Green Tree Fire Hall
Sponsored by Green Tree Seniors
$4 for Members/$6 for Non-Members – Lunch Provided

Thursday, September 8th

9:00 a.m. Rite Aid Flu Shot Clinic
Through 1 p.m. – Dormont Public Library, 2950 West Liberty Avenue
Seniors ages 65 and over are eligible for a flu shot at no cost, with a red, white and blue Medicare card. Individuals with Gateway or UPMC for You coverage are eligible to receive the vaccine at no cost.

4:00 p.m.

24th Annual Carnegie Arts & Heritage Festival
Through 10 p.m. – Carnegie’s Main Street

Friday, September 9th

12:00 p.m.

FREE Bridges & River Shores Walking Tour

  Meet in front of the Renaissance Pittsburgh Hotel, 107 Sixth Street
Sponsored by Pittsburgh History & Landmarks Foundation
For Reservations: Mary Lu Denny 412-471-5808, x 527 or Follow Link

4:00 p.m.

24th Annual Carnegie Arts & Heritage Festival
Through 12 a.m. – Carnegie’s Main Street

9:30 a.m. Friends of the Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh – Brookline – Meeting
708 Brookline Boulevard, Pittsburgh

10:00 a.m. Heidelberg Volunteer Fire Department Splash-Battle
Ellsworth Playground (Between 3rd & 4th Streets), Heidelberg
Firefighters Water Battle Tournament, Food & Games

Saturday, September 10th

8:00 a.m. Heidelberg Neighborhood Garage Sale Day
Through 2 p.m. – Borough-wide
Look for Newspaper & Web Advertising, Flyers & Signs for Details

9:00 a.m. Baldwin Township Community-Wide Garage Sale
Through 2 p.m. – Check Local Newspapers for Details

12:00 p.m.

Bellevue Community Health & Safety Day
Through 3 p.m. – at Bayne Park & Library, 34 N. Balph Avenue
Sponsored by AGH Suburban Campus, Bellevue Police Department, Bellevue Fire Department, Bellevue Volunteer Fire Co. and Northwest EMS

Featuring: Demonstrations, Equipment Display, Giveaways & Useful Information as well as visits from the AGH Life Flight Helicopter, the Pirate Parrot, “Sparky the Fire Dog” and activities like a Sports Trivia Game and get to use a real fire hose!

12:00 p.m.

24th Annual Carnegie Arts & Heritage Festival
Through 12 a.m. – Carnegie’s Main Street

12:00 p.m. Green Tree Sportsmen’s Bash
Through 7 p.m. – Green Tree Fire Hall
Supporting Green Tree & Ingram Volunteer Fire Departments

Sunday, September 11th

11:00 a.m. Soldiers & 10th Anniversary Memorial Service
Soldiers & Sailors Memorial Hall - Oakland

7:00 p.m. Scott Township September 11th Memorial Service
Scott Park

Monday, September 12th

1:00 p.m. Senate Appropriations Committee Hearing on State-Related Universities
University of Pittsburgh, J.W. Connolly Ballroom (1st Flr - Alumni Hall)

Tuesday, September 13th

1:00 p.m. Senate Banking & Insurance Committee Hearing on UPMC-Highmark
University of Pittsburgh, William Pitt Union Lwr Lounge, 4200 Fifth Ave

Borough of HeidelbergFontana Fact

The Borough of Heidelberg is named for the city of the same name in Germany. The Borough was, at one time, part of Collier Township, but formed its own borough in March of 1903. Many of the town’s residents were of German descent and they decided to name their new municipality after Heidelberg.

Offices of State Senator Wayne D. Fontana

Transportation Funding Advisory Commission Report
Run Your Rox Kids' Campaign to End Hunger Carnegie Arts and Heritage Festival Girls of Steel Robotics