Autonomy reform, costs still to be understood

More powers to the Regions but we must first establish what standards will be guaranteed to citizens on services – from healthcare to education – so that there is uniformity throughout the country. The impact on the state budget must also be determined, without blowing up the accounts, otherwise there will be no decentralization

Will differentiated autonomy have a cost? And which? These are crucial questions because the concrete implementation of the reform that promises to give more powers to the Regions is based on resources.

Significant impact on finances

There is currently no estimate of how much money would be needed, but from an initial survey (the report of the Committee led by Sabino Cassese) it emerged that the impact on public finances could be significant, because it will be necessary to guarantee all citizens equal treatment in many services.

Standard services to be guaranteed

We are talking about the so-called Essential Performance Levels (Lep), in practice the same standards in every part of the country for most decentralized sectors (excluding some skills such as civil protection and foreign trade). From healthcare to education, through transport and safety at work, there must be uniformity, in other words: treatment in Calabria as in Lombardy without differences.

The risk of inequalities

However, since the Regions that ask for more powers will be able to withhold a part of the taxes more than now, the State will find itself with fewer funds to help those whose local accounts are in the red and balance the geographical inequalities, which are already very strong between North and South.

Two years to implement the reform

To avoid all this it will be necessary to ensure – precisely – minimum levels of services, but the parameters have not yet been established. The government has two years from the final approval of the reform (not before June) to put them in black and white. Only with this photograph will it be possible to understand how much money will be needed to avoid disparities that would weigh on the lives of many Italians.

The blanket: spending cuts and tax increases

If it turns out that a lot of resources will be needed, at that point all that will be left to do is cut other spending or increase taxes. The autonomy reform, in fact, is linked to a constraint: it must not blow up the public accounts and, in the absence of a new revenue that covers an outlay, decentralization would risk remaining only on paper.