2009 COUNTY BUDGET TAKES A RIDE ON BACKS OF LOCAL HOSPITALITY INDUSTRY

Over-collection of Drink Tax funds must not be used to prop up county budget


Pittsburgh, PA – Tonight, Allegheny County Chief Executive Dan Onorato delivered his 2009 proposed county budget to council.  This budget proposal includes a modest Drink Tax reduction while again failing to deal with the county’s structural deficit.

Allegheny County businessperson and Friends Against Counterproductive Taxation (FACT) board member Kevin Joyce said, “Let’s be honest, the Drink Tax was proposed and instituted not solely for the benefit of mass transit, but as a backhanded way to deal with the county’s structural deficit.  The budget looks good on paper – no new property taxes and a reduction in the drink tax – the problem is that this county is not solvent for the long term and our leaders know it.  The Drink Tax is and always has been simply a way to mask these larger issues regarding the fundamentals of the budget.  As you might expect, this plan very simply plays politics for short term gain, neglecting the long term viability of our region.

Kevin Joyce continued, “There was much talk this evening of how to spend the “over-collection” of the Drink Tax.  First, Act 44 dictates that all monies collected as a result of the Drink Tax should be used for mass transit.  Second, we take issue with the premise that this is the county’s money to spend as it sees fit.  This money is being taken out of the pockets of local businesses and the customers who support them, supposedly to subsidize the Port Authority, and our government leaders are treating it as if it’s a rainy day fund to address all that ails this county.  Our industry has been hit particularly hard by the economic crisis, businesses are closing in droves and people are losing jobs, yet our county government continues to bludgeon the hospitality industry with this tax while drawing up an over-collection Christmas list at the expense of countless local families and businesses.  Everyone is being forced to tighten their belts during this economic crisis, except on Grant Street.  The $29.5 million that has been collected through 8 months of 2008, which is already $3.25 million more than the $26.25 million purportedly needed for the 2008 transit match, has been left unspent and collecting interest while our leaders plan their Christmas list.  This budget guarantees it’s going to be a nice Christmas on Grant Street, but I’m not so sure about Main Street.”

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