Fontana opposes tax increases in proposed Act 47 plan

State Sen. Wayne Fontana (D-42) expressed concern on June 11 regarding a five-year plan put forth by Pittsburgh's financial overseers that seeks to improve financial stability.

Pittsburgh operates as a financially stressed city under Act 47, and the plan was put developed to address an estimated $21 million budget deficit expected by 2018. The plan proposes implementing new taxes to address the revenue shortfall.

Fontana said the state should seek solutions that would benefit the city, though he added that the state should not impose new taxes. He lauded legislation he recently introduced in the Senate - S.B. 143 - that would require non-profit groups to pay taxes on their property.

"An exemption for the first $200,000 of land value is included in the legislation to protect smaller organizations such as health clinics, charitable organizations and churches to allow them to continue their missions," Fontana said. "However, larger companies have been achieving record profits year after year while the city is suffering substantial revenue losses. We should examine alternatives such as S.B. 143 further before we wade into e-solutions that would only serve to harm those who are struggling the most among us."

Fontana said the worth of tax-exempt land in Pittsburgh totals more than $2.4 billion, adding that his legislation would bring in an estimated $166 million with a combined city-school district-county tax rate on the property. The proposal has garnered little support in the capital, though Fontana said he is "open to suggestions on ways to improve the bill."