Trust-Building with UPMC

What up, UPMC. Merry Xmas and happy holidays.

Your General Counsel, the ill-used Robert Cindrich, volunteered at a recent meeting of our City Council that you had amassed so-and-so amount of money in “profits”.

Cindrich made special note of his own preference for the term “profits” over “excess margin,” which he suggested was getting a bit silly already.

That was decent, UPMC.

Council will be holding a public hearing on the subject of making moot your potential future tax obligations, in recognition of payments you are and will have been making in lieu of taxes.

On the one hand, you are indeed making “gifts” and “donations” to the Pittsburgh Public Service Fund and to the Pittsburgh Promise. One might be able to say already, with technical accuracy, that as a tax-exempt institution, these gifts are quite literally payments you are making in lieu of taxes.

However, under the legislation we are considering, UPMC would have its gifts, its alms, its largess counted in lieu of the very taxes for which it may become liable under changes in law. Hence, the relationship has been defined between the current regime of gift-giving and the prospect of taxation — it is one of mutual exclusivity.

The Comet only asks that, much like the sensible decision you made to begin speaking of “profits,” you allow everybody to use the words “payments in lieu of taxes” where obviously appropriate.

Some within your legal department may scream bloody murder — but do ask them to take a deep breath, and find out if it really weakens your position. We doubt it. UPMC has never been obligated under any circumstances to make payments in lieu of taxes — volunteering to do so is evidence enough of its generosity.

Meanwhile, your public relations department should thank you.

Best of all, the term “payment-in-lieu-of-taxes” will bring the added benefit of everybody knowing what the hell they are talking about. We can all process legislation more readily if we can speak freely, unhindered by layers of obfuscation and unwarranted suspicion.

Tell you what, UPMC. You start letting us talk about payments in lieu of taxes — and we’ll let you call your “tax credits” just about anything you might deem fit.

Do we have an accord?


The Pittsburgh Comet

PS. — Recently, on a different occasion in those Council Chambers, there was talk of certain “investments” being made “in South Africa.” We remain wholly ignorant of the details, but boy did it arouse our curiosity!

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