What Voters Care About: UPMC Tax Avoidance

Guest Blogger Michael Lamb
City Controller and Community Coordinating Committee member for Make it Our UPMC 

With so many elections right around the corner, we’re hearing a lot about policy — and even more about politics!

Undecided voters' support for a candidate who pledges to make UPMC pay its fair share.

Undecided voters’ support for a candidate who pledges to make UPMC pay its fair share.

This spring, we learned that one smart policy also happens to be smart politics: taking a strong position on UPMC’s obligation to our community and our City’s challenge to the healthcare institution’s charity status.

And you don’t have to take my word for it.

Recently, a poll conducted for the Tribune Review shows that Pittsburgh’s challenge of UPMC’s nonprofit status has the support of an overwhelming majority of likely voters. The survey of 400 likely Democratic voters was conducted on April 1 and 2 and found that 73% of those surveyed think the challenge makes sense.

Now, a new poll shows that UPMC’s tax avoidance is the #1 issue for many primary voters, especially for those voters who are undecided. 

And what should really catch candidates’ eyes is that 75% of likely primary voters, including 64% of undecideds, are willing to cast their vote based on the strength of their position in making UPMC do its fair share.

As taxpayers are being asked to do more and more, and often receiving less and less, it’s perhaps no surprise that Pittsburgh residents are looking for the city’s largest employer, landowner and healthcare provider to partner with us in making our neighborhoods healthy and strong.

In just 5 short months, voters' opinions of UPMC have dramatically declined.

In just 5 short months, voters’ opinions of UPMC have dramatically declined.

Pittsburgh is looking for more from our largest charity.  And we are concerned that UPMC seems less than interested. In just a few short months, public support for UPMC has declined rapidly, even among the majority of people in our city who directly interact with UPMC.  More than half of poll respondents now have an unfavorable view of UPMC, a 24% shift in just the past six months.

What do people really want from UPMC? Seventy percent think a great healthcare provider puts patients ahead of profit.  But nearly 60% of people think UPMC does not. Many also believe that UPMC is not charging reasonable prices and that UPMC is not a “good corporate citizen.”

What else do we know from this new poll?  Voters want UPMC to treat employees fairly. Fully 73% of respondents think UPMC employees would be better off with a union, and over 50% believe this strongly.

The public has spoken, and UPMC should take time to listen.  Pittsburgh wants UPMC to be a better employer and a better neighbor.

Pittsburgh wants those elected this May to make this a priority.

Michael Lamb
Michael Lamb was elected Controller of the City of Pittsburgh in November of 2007. As Controller, Michael Lamb has put a focus on making Pittsburgh government more transparent.  In addition to being City Controller, Lamb serves on the boards of the Kane Foundation, the Catholic Youth Association, the Downtown Pittsburgh YMCA and the 3 Rivers Wet Weather Demonstration Project. He is a member of the Mount Washington – Duquesne Heights Community Development Corporation, and sits on the Board of Fellows of the University of Pittsburgh’s Institute of Politics.  Lamb was also the founding co-chair of A Plus Schools, the community alliance for Pittsburgh Public education.