I realize that I work for a university, but, believe me, there’s no conflict of interest in my opposition to the proposed Pittsburgh tuition tax on students. And then, when the tax was challenged as being unconstitutional and City Council responded by passing special, unique zoning procedures only for universities, I just had to write the following Letter to the Editor (it’s the fifth one on the page):
I hope you agree with me that this is an embarrassing, anti-intellectual seeming step backward for Pittsburgh — a city that has been transforming itself into an exciting and progressive new image.
We nonprofits are in a touchy position right now. Some of the universities and hospital systems have tremendous wealth, and there is certainly a reasonable argument to be made that they should be paying into the coffers for the services they receive. On the other hand, they are providing tremendous services in exchange for their tax-exempt statuses. And, the vast majority of nonprofits struggle day to day to survive as they provide essential safety nets, high quality arts and culture, and countless other benefits for the common weal.
So, on the one hand, it’s a dangerous can of worms to open for any nonprofit to pay some version of taxes. On the other, we’re all — government included — financially stressed right now. But whatever the solution, it seems to me that taking a leadership role in adding even more to the already exorbitant cost of education can’t be a good idea.
What do you think?