Pittsburgh's Path Out of Financial Distress

Pittsburgh's Path Out of Financial Distress

Over the past 14 years, the city of Pittsburgh has resolved its revenue, spending, and debt management issues.


After Pittsburgh almost ran out of money in 2003, Pennsylvania stepped in to help the city restore its finances. More than 14 years later, the state ended its oversight and assistance efforts in February. Challenges remain, but the fiscal future now looks more stable for Pennsylvania’s second-largest city. This three-part series by The Pew Charitable Trusts explores how Pittsburgh resolved its revenue, spending, and debt management issues, and what lessons other local governments could learn from Pittsburgh’s experience.

Part One: Pittsburgh’s financial troubles worsen and the state agrees to help

Pittsburgh has emerged significantly stronger after 14 years of state supervision, and the city’s experience offers lessons for financially struggling local governments and state officials who choose to help stabilize them.

Part Two: How state, city officials worked to fix the problem

The recent decision by Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf (D) to remove Pittsburgh city government from state oversight brought an end to a 14-year salvage effort involving three governors, four mayors, a host of state and local elected officials, as well as business, union, and civic leaders.

Part Three: What practices Pittsburgh implemented to ensure budget stability

During Pittsburgh’s years under state supervision, officials adopted a series of practices intended to ensure that the city does not slip back into financial distress in what turned out to be a successful strategy to end state control.