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State legislators not eager to OK bailout plan

| Saturday, June 5, 2004

PITTSBURGH -- Architects of Pittsburgh's bailout plan hoping to dip into the pockets of commuting suburbanites might have a tough sell for their plan in the state Legislature this summer.

Valley representatives and state senators are skeptical about approving an increase in the occupational privilege tax their constituents pay to work Downtown.

Pittsburgh residents and nonresidents pay a $10 per-head occupational privilege tax if they work in the city. Pittsburgh Mayor Tom Murphy suggested raising that to between $50 and $60 a year. The Act 47 team plan released last week called for hiking the tax to $120 a year.

Valley legislators who represent most of the commuters, including state Sen. Sean Logan, D-Monroeville, have said they don't like the idea of increasing the occupational privilege tax only for Pittsburgh.

Logan said he favors increasing the occupational privilege tax for all communities.

"What about the person who lives in Shadyside and works in Tarentum or New Kensington?" Logan asked. "Every community is ailing, so if it is a good for one community, let's be fair to all."

State Sen. Jim Ferlo, D-Highland Park, also has said he opposes creating a Pittsburgh commuter tax, but favors allowing all communities a hike in the occupational privilege tax.

Logan and other legislators like Rep. Daryl Metcalfe, R-Cranberry, agreed the city needs to do more belt-tightening.

"There are other sources of revenue," Logan said. "They just don't want to go there."

He said a $15 monthly garbage fee for city residents could raise $25 million a year. City residents don't pay for garbage collection now, unlike most of their suburban neighbors.

Even if Pittsburgh cuts expenses, Metcalfe said he is loathe to approve new taxes on suburbanites or even city residents.

"The whole idea of cutting back is so you don't have to raise taxes," Metcalfe said. "Any plan that has the city raising taxes on residents or people who work in the city is not a responsible plan.

"The problem is, they spend too much and they live high on the hog."

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