In a surprise move that may prove largely symbolic, Pittsburgh City Council today voted against lowering the parking tax from 40 percent to 37.5 percent, despite a state law that requires the reduction.
Though the state in 2004 set a schedule for the reduction of the tax, which was once 50 percent, the annual cuts require council votes. Today's preliminary vote of 4-4, with one council seat empty, if repeated at council's final meeting of the year on Dec. 30, would prevent the reduction.
"If [the tax cut] doesn't receive the five votes on final vote day, the state will come and threaten to withhold funds," said Councilman Jim Motznik, who annually fights to keep the parking tax level stable and dedicate some of the receipts to reducing the city's pension and debt obligations. Lot operators have been pocketing their savings from the lowered tax, rather than sharing them with consumers, he argues.
"I didn't realize that three other members were going to join me in voting no," he said.
"I voted not to lower it," said Councilwoman Tonya Payne. Why defy the state? Because it hasn't come through with financial help, she said. Last year, she said, "there were a couple of state senators who said to just sit tight, they had some ideas to help [the city] out, and I never heard a peep."
The other votes against the tax reduction came from Councilwoman Darlene Harris and Council President Doug Shields.
Some insiders predicted that at least one vote against the tax reduction would shift by the time of the final vote.