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Politics & Government

Pittsburgh Budget $10M Short After Casino Tax Deemed Unconstitutional

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Mark Nootbaar
/
90.5 WESA

City officials are looking for ways to fill a $10 million hole in the 2017 budget after the state Supreme Court declared a uniform casino tax unconstitutional.

The court struck down the provision that sent millions of dollars to host municipalities – either 2 percent of a casino’s slot revenues or $10 million, whichever was more money.  The court gave the legislature 120 days to fix the law.

The senate passed a fix but the house adjourned for the year on Wednesday without taking action. That means Pittsburgh will not receive its annual $10 million payment from the Rivers Casino and will need to find a solution by December.

Pittsburgh Communications Manager Tim McNulty said the city is already looking for ways to plug that hole.

“Talks have been going on for some time now between Chief of Staff Kevin Acklin and Rivers Casino personnel,” said McNulty of the effort to get the casino to make a voluntary payment. “Those talks have been going very well. And we’re happy that, that is going on. But at the same time we have to plan for the worst.”

Rivers Casino declined to comment on the negotiations.

The city does have a reserve fund, but it’s not large enough to cover the gap and still stay above ICA-mandated levels.

Without a deal, the city would have to make budget cuts.

“Ten million is a lot and it would mean cuts across every single city department,” McNulty said. “Those cuts would fall biggest on the biggest departments. And so, for the city of Pittsburgh that means the police department, fire bureau, paramedics, public works… and it would have a major impact on city services."

The court ruling could also impact the $5.5 million paid to Allegheny County, however it does not impact the other taxes levied on casinos across the state.