December 15, 2009

Pittsburgh Mayor’s Ultimatum to Universities: Pay City Millions, or See a Tax on Tuition


A breaking dispatch from the Associated Press sure makes it look like Pittsburgh Mayor Luke Ravenstahl (picture at top right is from his Wikipedia entry) is engaging in extortion directed at the institutions of higher education that happen to be within the city’s borders. The ostensible reason for the stickup is to shore up the city’s foundering pension system.

It will be interesting to see how or if the AP develops this story in the coming day before the possible Wednesday vote.

Also, the “first-of-its-kind” tax that Ravenstahl wants to impose has gotten surprisingly little national notice since he first proposed it in mid-November.

Anyway, here’s a graphic capture of the AP item:


If this isn’t extortion, someone will have to tell me what it is.

It will surprise no one that the tax-creative Ravenstahl is a Democrat. Though the situation may change in future updates, it will further surprise no one that the AP didn’t name his party.

A deeper look into his record gives indications that the 29 year-old Ravenstahl appears bound and determined to make us forget about the up-to-now worst big-city “boy mayor” in American history, Cleveland’s Dennis Kucinich. Kucinich, now an Ohio congressman and a comic sideshow Democratic presidential candidate in 2004 and 2008, brought his city to the brink of bankruptcy in the late 1970s, barely surviving a recall vote.

As to the tuition tax, though the best tax is usually one that doesn’t exist, this particular assessment might have a backhanded benefit. A levy so visible and so onerous might make collegians a bit more skeptical of the non-stop statism so many of their profs promulgate.

Commenters surely will have other thoughts on this, so have at it.

Cross-posted at


BizzyBlog Update: From the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review

Ravenstahl pushes vote on tuition tax
Mayor sees ‘no commitment’ from university leaders on city’s finance effort

With a tenuous City Council majority willing to vote for a proposed tuition tax, Pittsburgh Mayor Luke Ravenstahl wants to see the levy tentatively approved tomorrow, despite the pledges of university leaders yesterday to work with the city on its finances if the tax is dropped.

“What we heard clearly was really no commitment from the nonprofit community to commit to anything tangible, or real,” Mr. Ravenstahl said, following a 2 1/2-hour public meeting that featured five higher education leaders and all 11 elected city officials. No one pledged to come up with the $5 million a year he has requested to avert the tuition tax, he said.

“One does not negotiate with an ax hanging over your head,” said Chatham University President Esther Barazzone, while joining her peers in calling for “a big-tent coalition to help to lead the city to a different future.” One caveat: “We cannot give up our nonprofit status.”

The 1 percent tuition levy is expected to raise slightly more than the $15 million a year the administration has said it needs to right the pension fund. The mayor said last week he would settle for one-third of that, plus an agreement with the universities to seek help in Harrisburg to cover the balance.

Yeah, it’s extortion.

If there’s any ironic satisfaction in this, it’s seeing the city’s elitist Democratic politicians acting like the authoritarians (Chavez, Castro, etc.) so many university profs so seem to love — but going after the institutions more than likely containing many of their mentors in the process.

By the way, has anyone attempted to explain that the tuition tax — if the money is actually used as intended, which I realize requires a willing suspension of disbelief — would constitute direct, undeniable intergenerational theft? The tax would largely be paid by young students. It would go directly to older retirees. That’s about as clear a case of legalized larceny as I’ve ever seen; and unlike Social Security and Medicare, there’s no pretense of a “Trust Fund” in between.



  1. Sadly, I suspect there are student groups ardently pushing for the tuition tax. The myopic and moralistic reasoning statists use to romanticize the role of government to perfect society will surely bring them to the conclusion that such a tax will have no cost to them. To the contrary, the brain-twisted students (and professors) have probably formulated an argument to say the tax will benefit them.

    Comment by Michael — December 16, 2009 @ 11:40 am

  2. [...] becoming the worst “boy mayor” since Cleveland’s Dennis Kucinich in the 1970s, has proposed a 1% tax on tuitions charged at institutions of higher learning within his city. He apparently has the support of a [...]

    Pingback by Pajamas Media » A Tax You Can (Almost) Like — December 18, 2009 @ 3:13 am

  3. [...] mayor has demanded that the schools cough up $5 million a year voluntarily to avoid having the tax imposed. (In light of the information in the previous [...]

    Pingback by The Tuition Tax: Irony on Campus — December 19, 2009 @ 9:45 am

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