Monday, November 30, 2009

Public Hearing Held On Proposed Student Fair Share Tax

Pittsburgh City Council today held a public hearing on the proposed 1% student fair share tax. Over 100 hundred students from Pittsburgh Colleges and Universities packed the Council Chambers and spoke out against the proposed tax. City Councilman Jim Motznik addressed the students before the hearing began and told them that Pittsburgh is only targeting them because the non-profits and universities in the city are not giving their fair share. Councilwoman Darlene Harris shared that sentiment saying that she doesn't want to have to tax students but has to find a way to fill the $15 million budget gap. Students who spoke at the hearing tried to paint a picture of a future Pittsburgh with less students attending college as a result of the tax. Many students spoke about how education is a right and not a privilege. University of Pittsburgh Student Government Association board member Charles Shull says it is obvious to him that Pittsburgh has mishandled its budget and is taking it out on students.

Council is set to take a preliminary vote on the measure December 9th and final vote on December 15th. The proposed student fair share tax is Mayor Luke Ravenstahl's attempt to fill a $15 million budget gap to fund the city's ailing pension fund. The proposed tax would apply to any student that attends a university or college in Pittsburgh and would vary student by student depending on the amount of their tuition. City Council is split on the legislation but currently has enough support to approve it by a 5-4 vote. Riefenstahl's budget, which included the proposed tax, was shot down by the state appointed Inter Governmental Cooperation Authority. The Mayor has urged members of Council to approve the tax even though questions on the tax's legality abound.

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