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State Senator Wants Large Non-Profits to Pay Real Estate Taxes

Following a hearing on the ongoing dispute between the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center (UPMC) and Highmark, State Senator Wayne Fontana (D-Pittsburgh) said that legislative action needs to be taken to rein in non-profit organizations that, he said, are clearly driven by profit.

Fontana introduced a bill that would require some larger non-profits to pay real estate taxes on the assessed value of land owned by their organization. A similar bill was introduced a couple of years ago, but didn't go anywhere because of fears about how it would affect smaller non-profits.

"And I get that," said Fontana, "and I'm trying to exempt them because this is not for the Boys and Girls Clubs or the small churches. That's not what this is about. We'll exempt them in some shape or form. They don't have the big reserves and aren't buying up real estate all across the city and county, so there is a difference."

Fontana said that organizations such as UPMC and Highmark have purchased large amounts of prime real estate and taken them off the tax rolls due to their non-profit status. But, Fontana argues, these entities operate like for-profit businesses, bringing in large revenues with little to no benefit to those who use their services.

"Those revenues are not trickling down to their bills, to their monthly payments for health care, and they're taking real estate tax dollars away from tax payers also, which means they pay more in their real estate taxes," said Fontana.

Fontana's bill, Senate Bill 1281, is currently in the Senate Finance Committee. It's not scheduled for a hearing at this time, but he said that he hopes it will come up for a hearing sometime after the New Year.