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Pittsburgh Mayor Luke Ravenstahl’s College Tax Shocks Students

By TheWatchman on November 10, 2009

Mayor Luke Ravenstahl

Luke Ravenstahl became the youngest Pittsburgh mayor at 26, taking over after the death of incumbent Mayor Bob O'Connor.

Dubbed the “Boy Mayor” by his critics, Pittsburgh Mayor Luke Ravenstahl, 29, has finally managed to upset many of the college age youth who are his Facebook friends, many of whom supported him less than a week ago when he won his first full term in office.  Mayor Luke Ravenstahl’s “fair share” college tax, a post-secondary education privilege tax that would require students to pay a one percent tax per year on all education after high school, has been met with both shock and criticism.

“I think that’s ridiculous,” says Maria Walters, a community college student. “We shouldn’t have to pay a tax to be able to go to school.” With regard to Pittsburgh’s local colleges, a Carnegie Mellon University student would pay $403, an in-state Pitt student would pay $135, and a Community College student would pay $27 per year under the new tax. Basically, as the tuition goes up, so does the tax burden.

Mayor Luke Ravenstahl scrapped proposed taxes on all-day parkers, hospital patients and some water customers in favor of the Fair Share Tax on college students, an easier route considering a lot of those students and their families don’t reside in the city and won’t be a factor in his reelection. The Fair Share Tax, which still needs to be approved by the Pittsburgh City Council, would include all post secondary education, including colleges, universities, art schools, culinary schools, business schools, etc and would cover an estimated 100,000 tuition-paying students.

"When Carnegie Mellon students spend their Friday night on the South Side, get a little rowdy and Councilman Kraus calls the police to break them up, who pays the bill," asked the mayor. The mayor is overlooking the fact that local citizens are already paying the bill, and college students who are also residents of the city will be paying the bill twice, something that CMU student and city resident Laura Pacillio says is ridiculous.

While we’re on the subject of requiring visitors to the Steel City to pay taxes for public services, what about the thousands of fans who come to the city each year to watch their football teams play the Pittsburgh Steelers? What happens when the police are called to break them up when they get “a little rowdy”? Who pays that bill? Not the visiting fans.

Why the new tax? The majority of the $16 million expected to be generated from Mayor Ravenstahl’s college tax, labeled the “Fair Share Tax”, will be used to cover required extra payments toward the city's pension fund. In other words, Pittsburgh is running out of money and the city workers’ unions who supported Ravenstahl want to be taken care of. The state wants to step in and take over the pensions, but the local unions are afraid of state control. Thus, the Mayor has found a way to ensure that their pensions are secure and adequately funded, even if it means further burdening students, many of whom have chosen to migrate to Pittsburgh for their education. To learn more about Ravenstahl and the unions, read Adam Brandolph's article at the Tribune-Review.

In a rather pathetic effort to distract from the money’s main purpose, Ravenstahl also said that one million will go to the city’s libraries, but only if no libraries are closed.

In a city whose own public school system is failing, is it wise to now burden those seeking higher education? It seems that the last thing Pittsburgh’s “Boy Mayor” should be doing is taxing young people who are striving to educate themselves in order to better contribute to the community.

"We respectfully and vigorously disagree with the mayor that the solution to years of financial woes for the city should be found on the backs of students bettering themselves and in many cases the regional workforce that will help keep the city of Pittsburgh and the region in a ever challenging national and international marketplace," said Mary Hines, president of Carlow University and chairwoman of the Pittsburgh Council on Higher Education.

Pittsburgh Mayor Luke Ravenstahl has promised that he will push the Fair Share Tax through even if it means using the courts to get it done.

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  1. It’s not fair, all college students are not fresh out of high school, and depending on parents to take care of us. Some students are already tax paying citizens, now I have to pay additional tax too. Paying for college is already extremely expensive.

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