Proof of government doofosity.


Today, Lukey is going to city council to propose a new 1% tax that will be levied on the tuition of students that attend college in the city of Pittsburgh.  The money generated from this tax will go toward funding the city’s underfunded pension, and some toward the libraries.

And all I can think is this:

Lukey, UPMC, and the city schools have been begging nonprofits, corporations, and people like you and I to give to the Pittsburgh Promise to provide tuition dollars for students to go to college in Pennsylvania.  Now, Lukey wants to turn around and tell some of those same kids, “Uh, yeah, here’s some money for college.  Now give some of it back to me because I’m taxing your butt now.”

The city of Pittsburgh has finally run out of things to tax when not only is Lukey looking to tax skyrocketing, completely-unaffordable-as-it-is-tuition, but in trying to sell it to you says:

“We don’t believe that [1 percent] is too burdensome on college students,” Mr. Ravenstahl said.

Right.  Because when you’re taking out loans in the tens and tens of thousands of dollars, working two jobs, putting your parents further into debt, eating Ramen noodles three meals a day, dying inside when you have to pay $150 for one stinking math book, all so you can pay tuition that this year is 5% more than last year and then spend the next 15 years paying off loans, hell, what’s another $300 a year?

This mentality is why Allegheny County managed to pass the drink tax while having ridiculously high property taxes.  This “what’s a hundred or three hundred dollars here and there and here and there and here and oh yeah, over there, and don’t forget right here this thing under this rock that we haven’t taxed yet” mentality.

How long before our local politicians realize that all those drops of taxes in the bucket have turned into an ocean whose tide is going to sweep our residents right out of the city and off to greener, less-taxed pastures?

Here’s an idea.  Audit the library system like you mean it and find out why, REALLY why they’re in the position they are.  Don’t put a band-aid on the wound.  Find out what’s causing the bleeding.  And while you’re at it, city, don’t even expect a single one of us to believe there isn’t a gross, gross waste of taxpayer dollars happening on Grant Street.  Shall I remind you of the quarter of a million dollars spent on 250 trash cans?

City, HEAL THYSELF before taxing your people.

This tax is a horrible idea and I’m trusting City Council to kick it in the nads.


UPDATE: Lukey calls this a tax on “the privilege” of attending college in Pittsburgh.  As I write in the comments:

Another thing Lukey and City Council need to grasp, and this is a TRUTH, forget the students being “privileged” to attend college in Pittsburgh, how about the fact that when students attend college in Pittsburgh, stay in Pittsburgh, work in Pittsburgh, Pittsburgh is gifted with an educated workforce and thereby a larger tax-base.

God. How dumb this is. I’m feeling stabbity now.

[awkward kung fu moves]

If you think my cute little fist-shaking is bad, you should see me when I go Kung Fu Panda on something. Not pretty, people. Not pretty.


  1. Elmer Fudd
    November 9, 2009 2:53 pm

    Privileged? Lukey should know all about priveleged. If they taxed the priveleged in this town Lukey would be paying about 110%…

  2. burgerboy47
    November 9, 2009 2:53 pm

    When there is only One Party Rule in the city this is what you get.

    You think it is bad now, just wait until he gets da ‘burg off of Act 47 (with Gov. Dan’s help) then the credit line is wide open! Let the credit card spending begin (again).

    The Machine is running just fine and Lukey is in the drivers seat.

  3. Burgh Baby
    November 9, 2009 2:55 pm

    Clearly good ol’ Lukey is on Penn State’s bankroll. “Here, you figure out a way to get kids to knock Pitt off of their potential college list, and we’ll save you a very special table at The ‘Skeller.”

  4. Toad
    November 9, 2009 2:56 pm

    I wonder what the outcome of the election would have been if Lukey had announced this new proposal on October 30th. Or, even Nov. 2. Something tells me it would have at least been a lot closer.

    Let’s not be naive enough to think that undergrad college students don’t have a couple hundred of dollars around to pay the “tax.” How many buy beer, go to the bar, buy Pitt season football tix, etc.

    That being said, from a “Pittsburgh PR” prospective, this is just nucking futs. Before long, PGH is going to be the size of Harrisburg, and the only way to stop that is to keep our newly graduated collegians in town — both native PGHers and out-of-towners. Let’s be honest — the kid who gets a full academic ride to either Pitt or Penn State would be nuts not to choose Penn State if this “tax” passes city council. Why pay 200 to Mayor Doogie Houser when I can have drinking, eating, buy football tix, etc. money for the semester? No brainer if you ask me………

  5. Sexy Jesus
    November 9, 2009 3:02 pm


    1% on 90k is $900, not $9,000. Still stupid, but then what are students going to do about it, vote? It’s the perfect “crime” because it doesn’t effect most people immediately and the people it does effect – particularly those students and families who live out of state – won’t know about it until it’s too late.

  6. YinzerInExile
    November 9, 2009 3:04 pm

    Yeah . . . like I said: no math. Thanks for the correction! :D

    So I couldn’t buy Kias, but that’s still a lot of Ramen . . .

  7. toni
    November 9, 2009 3:09 pm

    Don’t just call the idiot Mayor, make sure you call your city council memeber…

    List of districts and whose your councilman:

  8. PittinDC
    November 9, 2009 3:22 pm

    Good thing I didn’t come back home to go to law school. Instead, I stayed in DC, go to a higher ranked school, and don’t get taxed to do it. Now my brother going to get his second degree at Pitt.. he’s screwed.

  9. parkingchair
    November 9, 2009 3:25 pm

    The city needs to create incentives for people to come here, not reasons to reconsider. Although 1% may not seem like a lot, it is still a line item that says “extra cost for going to school in Pittsburgh.” If you’re a kid (or that kid’s parents) making a pro and con list deciding which college to choose, that’s one more item in the “con” list.

    Pittsburgh needs to adopt a more confident, fierce approach to job creation. You can either let another city steal away your jobs, or you can steal jobs from another city. The Steelers travel well because so many people followed the jobs and left town.

    Pittsbugh has land, a growing infrastructure and a world class airport. We need to be more aggressive in luring companies here. Taxing students is small change and a bad idea.

  10. PamInPgh
    November 9, 2009 3:38 pm

    I’ve written my councilman already. Here’s hoping he had the “privilege” of attending a Pittsburgh school and is able to read, think, and act/react appropriately.

  11. Ferd
    November 9, 2009 3:46 pm

    We’re MOVING FORWARD, don’t forget.

  12. Steelman
    November 9, 2009 3:58 pm

    Once again we see the vicious cycle of “Taxonomics”. Revenues are down so our brilliant politicians raise taxes to steal and waste more of our money. This hurts businesses and people working in the ‘Burgh, so they move out. Guess what happens? Revenues drop further and the cycle continues. Eventually there will be 10 millionaires working in Pittsburgh who pay 110% in taxes.

  13. Martin Silenus
    November 9, 2009 4:19 pm

    Can’t agree more about the doofosity. Lukey has outdone even his own stupid-arse self. Yeesh.

  14. unsatisfied
    November 9, 2009 4:19 pm

    I saw lukey make that smug comment about the CMU students on the news at noon today.

    to lukey: fuck you.

    to the city of pittsburgh: you voted him back into office — I’m betting it’s because: 1 he’s a democrat, 2) the few who voted knew his name. don’t want to say that you get what you vote for, but…..

  15. HollyT
    November 9, 2009 4:25 pm

    So is Pittsburgh being run by the same government in the story of Robin Hood?? Where oh where is Robin Hood to help save us poor college students!?!?!

    This would be a deciding factor on my decision to attend a school. I graduated in 2008 from Point Park. Uh, $200 per semester on top of tuition? I don’t think so!

    The school was already taking money from us for “Activity Fees” that never got used up each year. Hmm Guess our extra money went to help buy all the buildings downtown. (I love PPU for helping the city, but I hated them calling me while I was STILL A STUDENT asking for a donation–uh hello, I was already donating $17,000 a year thank you).

    I’m currently attending the Art Institute of Pittsburgh Online Division, because its main offices are in downtown Pittsburgh, will I have to pay the tax? That will be another $200 I think…

    I am so peeved over this tax. I was hoping to read a post on here. Can I say protest?

  16. Kelly
    November 9, 2009 4:34 pm

    Ditto, unsatisfied. Lukey’s just jealous that he isn’t smart enough to get into CMU.

  17. Michelle
    November 9, 2009 4:36 pm

    Lovely. And you know, I’m currently looking at Pitt as a college choice too. If, by some miraculous piece of luck, I get a full ride, but am then expected to pay some tax…and if I would get a full ride somewhere else…I guarantee you that my parents will have me go to wherever else I get into. This stinks.

  18. bucdaddy
    November 9, 2009 4:38 pm


    Gorram, but “perter” sounds perverted.

  19. cmd_45
    November 9, 2009 5:43 pm

    Love the timing of this announcement…but maybe it will help get those 18-23 year olds interested in voting, so, yeah, Lukey, thanks for that.

    Anyone talked to parents that are so great that they help kids with college? How about parents that have two or three there? Yep, that one percent turns out to be a lot of dough. Tax someone else, preferably those that were too shortsighted to plan for pension funds in the long term.

  20. carnegiegrl
    November 9, 2009 6:06 pm

    Do you suppose there is any possibility this is a pre-exemptive strike towards the universities to “encourage” them to up their “voluntary” payment to the city in lieu of being taxed?
    Just a thought.
    And PittGirl, thanks for pointing out the irony of how the Pittsburgh Promise fits into this. Talk about literally talking out both sides of their mouths.

  21. Mabel
    November 9, 2009 6:52 pm

    Well said. This is insane.

  22. KGC
    November 9, 2009 6:53 pm


    Luke probably can’t spell “CMU” as the letters are not consecutive, e.g. “abcdefg…” Come to think of it, I doubt if he could recite the whole “a…z” thingy without Zober or Urbanec.

  23. HiTeach
    November 9, 2009 7:35 pm

    Well, when the mayor was elected by a mandate of the people…what 30,000 votes out of 300,000 people…I guess he can do anything. Some day the apathetic people of Pittsburgh might wise up and get some true, enlightened leadership.

  24. Different Brian
    November 9, 2009 7:57 pm

    Well done, Democrats! And when the next mayoral election rolls around we’ll get the exact same commercials with Lukey sitting in his car (he should be old enough to get his permit by then), riding around saying, boy I sure do love moving this city forward. The same idiot voters will pull the “D” lever, totally forgetting about all the stupid stuff he did the week after he got elected last time. “But he looks out for the little guy! Hooray for you, Lukey!”

    I just dropped a moving forward so I believe I owe myself a drink.

  25. pghgeorge
    November 9, 2009 9:05 pm

    We should start a 1% tax drinking game.
    Wait, I’m already drunk. What am I saying?

  26. NW Joe
    November 9, 2009 10:03 pm

    I guess I will be preaching to the choir but I have posted before about why the population of Pittsburgh has decreased to the extent it has in the past 40 years.

    You simply cannot tax your way into prosperity.

  27. RIZZO
    November 9, 2009 10:11 pm

    Gee Lukey Brilliant Boy Wonder, that should help draw people to our city. I am sure that the college and university administrators are thrilled with your proposal.
    Sorry Ginny.

  28. JR
    November 9, 2009 10:13 pm

    This tax is so poorly thought out it’s pathetic.

    So – I’m a commuter student at Pitt. I work part time downtown. I pay wage tax to my local municipality, the $52/year tax to Pittsburgh for the “privilege” to sit in traffic all day and now they want me to pay $150 a year for the privilege to go to school in Pittsburgh?

    Another thing, Lukey said he pays more than $1k in property and income tax. I make $25k a year and pay more than $1k in purely income tax, is my math wrong or am I not supposed to feel sorry for him?

    But if Pitt wins a National Championship and has a parade, you can bet he’ll be in the first car, waving like a lunatic.

  29. Suz
    November 9, 2009 10:15 pm

    Where is it written that the city has the authority to levy this tax in the first place?

  30. NeedChocolate
    November 10, 2009 12:15 am

    Good God, I’ve never wanted to pummel someone so badly in my life. Seriously, it hasn’t even been a WEEK Lukey! This is by far the dumbest thing ever.

    I moved out of the city last year, after finally saying…ENOUGH. I’ll save money if I move. (I damn near passed out when I received my first paycheck after moving outside of the city limits!) I guess you could call me a democrat…so to all of those shrugging their shoulders going “eh, he’s a democrat…you know how that goes” blah blah blah. You’re way off base. I NEVER voted for boy wonder when I lived in Pgh. Ever. And if I had lived in the city this year, I STILL wouldn’t have voted for him. There are plenty of democrats who don’t vote strictly down their party lines, but on those crazy things called issues.

    Mark – commuter tax? haven’t heard about that…

  31. Great Scot
    November 10, 2009 12:43 am

    And on top of that, if he’s taxing Pittsburgh colleges, does that carry over to places like Pitt Greensburg and Pitt Johnstown? Way to drive them outta there and into the arms of places like IUP, Penn State, Edinboro, Cal U, Slippery Rock and the others. I’m so glad that my loans were paid off before PHEAA tanked.

  32. TaxThis!
    November 10, 2009 7:55 am

    Time to tax ALL institutions. Tax the Churches and all the fake non profits institutions that are tax shelters for the rich.

  33. Sooska
    November 10, 2009 8:00 am

    I actually saw a local TV news interview where some young woman said that since so many of the students are foreign this is a good idea. wow. Horrible idea. I am hoping Lukey is being crafty here and actually aiming at the big profit making “non profits,” and the students are a convenient target from which the ammo will be deflected.

  34. L
    November 10, 2009 9:53 am

    Why don’t we tax the truly privileged class – people privileged enough to be selected for city jobs? Departments hold positions open until one of Luke’s buddies needs a job, all while wasting time and resources interviewing people who are actually qualified to keep up the farce of equal opportunity. That, and if you’re privileged enough to be born into a family of city workers, you can get one too! It’s time they contribute their fair share towards their own pensions, right?

    When is someone going to create anti-Luke bumper stickers? “Selected, not elected” … oh wait…

  35. S
    November 10, 2009 12:12 pm

    So I went to High School with Lukey. I was a few grades below him. I remember that he was on the football team and class president but I don’t remember him being overly smart. If I had to guess at the time, I would have pegged him to be one of those peaked in high school types. Although, he somehow became mayor I still think my prediction was correct. I have several problems with this tax. The first being that this city seems to have a “band aid” mentality. Instead of getting to the root of problems like the Port Authority, the Pension Plan, the Library, the city likes to try to throw money at things and hope they go away. Secondly, maybe I’m wrong but isn’t the “commuter tax” only $52 a year? So if I go to school full time, work downtown, I am paying already paying for the city services. Finally, I’m not sure of the legality of this tax. And if you read the article in the PG today, it seems as if Controller Lamb may agree.

  36. Kathy
    November 10, 2009 1:22 pm

    I agree its a terrible idea, but I also think it is unlikely to pass. The “we are allowed to do it because it doesn’t say we can’t” attitude of the City law department is not going to fly when it comes to balancing a budget with a $16 million gap that is overseen by not one but two separate state overseers. The extra kicker will be when the City fails to submit a balanced budget (which it looks like will be the case) then sanctions will kick in and grant money will be taken away from the City. All because they cannot figure out how to stop wasting money within their own ranks first before taxing for revenue. Wonder what little Luke’s mom has to say about this one?

  37. Neesie
    November 10, 2009 1:57 pm

    Great idea! Piss off the one group that Pittsburgh desperately needs to hold on to…young people.

    I think Lukey should just keep a coin jar on his desk and deposit a quarter for every stupid thing he does or says. The city would be financially “moving forward” in no time.

  38. Sofa King
    November 10, 2009 9:34 pm

    Typical stupid Democrat “tax and spend” governing. Don’t stop the wasteful spending, just find new ways to cover your backside on the backs of your citizens.

    Pittsburgh has been hemorrhaging people for years and finally starts to turn a corner when the idiots in control deem it a “privilege” to go to school here. These jerkwads need to realize that the city is privileged to have these students here, spending money and supporting the local economy.

  39. NeedChocolate
    November 10, 2009 10:19 pm

    **clearly I was tired when I typed my first comment. I now realize the $52/yr the city bled out of me is one in the same as the commuter tax, that I was questioning. Go figure. I just called it bullshit. :)

  40. jt
    November 10, 2009 11:26 pm

    I’m not a native Pittsburgher, and come from a state where we’re taxed an awful lot. More than here, if you can believe it. In general, though, I’d prefer to have money than to give it to the government. In general.

    Putting aside our genuine distaste for taxes for a *brief* moment, consider the rejoinder given by the mayor to the response of the city’s colleges, found at WPXI’s site (
    – “‘Those in the university community to suggest that this tax will ruin education or put Pittsburgh at a competitive disadvantage is disingenuous at the very least,’ said Ravenstahl.”

    Interesting. Before this sentence, there was no explicit mention in the article itself of disadvantages, competitive or comparative, for Pittsburgh’s higher learning institutions. It had mainly been about potential legal action. Something may have been said by the colleges about disadvantages, but if they did, it wasn’t mentioned in the article. Does that mean that, in general, the colleges are being disingenuous, WPXI is being disingenuous, or Ravenstahl is being disingenuous?

    – “Ravenstahl said the tuition tax would bring in about $16 million every year. Ravenstahl has said the schools charge numerous fees for everything from using the athletic facilities to security, and he thinks it is only fair to include a fee for the city.

    ‘The cost of attending post-secondary education increases annually,’ said Ravenstahl. ‘But the city and its taxpayers solely bear the burden of providing them with services. Deciding what tax made the most sense wasn’t easy. I will state once again that this is something I wish I didn’t have to do.'”

    It’s “only fair” to include a fee for the city? Huh. That strikes me as strange for many reasons, but let’s focus on his justification—it’s fair because “the city and its taxpayers” are bearing the burden of increases in post-secondary education. (Apparently those taxpayers that bear the burden of increasing costs by having to pay higher tuition rates are irrelevant, even before a tuition tax. It’s only the ones that bear the cost vis-à-vis their City of Pittsburgh taxes that matter.) Out of curiosity, I did my best to look through the city’s budget to find what, exactly, these increased costs were, and where they were visibly manifesting. I couldn’t find them. (Granted, my computer crashed when I tried to open the 2009 budget and therefore had to look at ’08.) Sure, there are indirect costs, perhaps manifested through public services (e.g., police), but *direct* costs? None to be found. So what costs to the city, in general?

    Therefore, in general, if you’re going to get everyone up in arms/kung-fuing over a tax, government of the adopted-city-of-mine, fine. In general, however, is it too much to ask for the tax’s justification to make some modicum of sense and not sound ridiculous? (Such an open-ended question. So many answers, so little time.)

    But, hey. I’m just a graduate student. I might need to pay a tax to be here, so my scandalous use of logic might way off base. In general, of course.

  41. justagirl
    November 11, 2009 7:13 am

    This is one of the Boy Mayor’s stupider ideas, which is saying a lot. It may not be legal, and any money it *might* raise will be spent defending it in court. While I can understand the sentiment of “many nonprofits eat up lots of land and make lots of money and require city resources but do not pay into city coffers,” picking one group [students] associated with one subsection [educational institutions] of all nonprofits is incredibly biased and doesn’t solve the problem. It just picks on that group, which happens to be a group you want to attract and an economic boon to your city.

    As to auditing the library system, that’s fine. I can tell you why it’s in trouble. Pittsburgh itself just doesn’t fund it. ($40,000 a year is a joke. That’s 13 cents per resident. Andrew Carnegie is rolling in his grave.) Despite receiving extra funds from the state and RAD (which is paid from the county 1% sales tax, thus paid by everyone in the county) compared to the other local libraries, it still can’t make it. In comparison, other local libraries receive like $9-$22 per resident from their supporting municipalities. I’m not saying Pittsburgh has to go that high, but that’s the difference. I’m sure a library audit will turn up some things they can do better, but the core problem is simply that the city itself pays jack squat for its own library system so that those outside the city limits are basically supporting it and their own libraries.

  42. Cassie
    November 11, 2009 9:10 am

    What I want to know is how is it the student’s fault that the prisons are underfunded?

  43. Bojack
    November 11, 2009 7:34 pm

    meh, y’all re-elected him!!!

  44. BrieCS
    November 12, 2009 3:21 pm

    This whole thing makes me rage. It’s bad enough I had to get a job outside of my planned career field to get a basic degree, since it’s practically a requirement to have a degree for any reasonable job these days, but to look forward to another tax? It’s looking like any grad school is out of the question for me…

    Howsabout those stadiums, huh?