Worker support: Pittsburgh deserves to have the same Act 47 options
August 19, 2014 12:00 AM
By the Editorial Board
All good parents know to treat their children equally, especially when they need help. So why are some legislators treating Pittsburgh like an outcast when it comes to Act 47?
That’s the state law that helps financially challenged municipalities in Pennsylvania get back on their feet. Under changes that would be made to the program through legislation, Pittsburgh would be the only Act 47 municipality that would not be permitted to raise the local services tax above $52 a year.
House Bill 1773 would allow boroughs, towns and cities designated as “financially distressed” to raise the tax up to a ceiling of $156 annually, in lieu of an increase in the earned income tax. That same flexibility should be available to Pittsburgh officials.
The local services tax is essentially a “worker tax,” paid by people employed in a municipality, regardless of whether they live there. The theory is that workers should contribute something toward the maintenance of roads, bridges and services provided by the place where they work. For most workers, a flat $52 or even $156 a year is a modest sum; it’s not a tax based on a percentage of income and people who make under $12,000 are exempt from paying it.
In the case of a city such as Pittsburgh, which is the economic hub of a region, the need for workers from the suburbs to support their place of employment is even more acute. While people are free to move and live where they choose, they take their tax dollars with them, leaving the roads, bridges and public services they rely on during the workweek to be funded by a shrinking core of city residents.
It’s no way to keep a metro region healthy.
Our suspicion is that suburban lawmakers are seeking this harmful exception in the Act 47 revision so that some of their constituents won’t have to pay another dollar or two a day to support the city where they work. That’s shortsighted.
Everyone’s a Pittsburgher when the Steelers play on Sunday, but for some that black and good thing stops Monday morning at the city limits.
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