Roberto Calderoli wants to make differentiated autonomy run. And to quickly close the umpteenth rerun of the controversy over the risk of “split Italy” with the transfer of functions and resources to the Northern Regions, he uses the train of the budget law to push the definition of the “essential levels of services” ( Lep), i.e. the minimum measure of public services to be guaranteed throughout Italy. The rule studied at the Ministry for Regional Affairs and Autonomies creates a control room on the Lep at Palazzo Chigi, which within a year will have to identify the essential levels of performance in the subjects that can move from the center to the regions with differentiated autonomy on the basis in article 116, third paragraph of the Constitution.
The control room
The control room, which will work with the Technical Commission on the standard needs of the Mef, will be chaired by Calderoli himself and composed of Raffaele Fitto (minister for EU, Southern and Pnrr affairs), Elisabetta Casellati (Reforms), Giancarlo Giorgetti (Economy) , Massimiliano Fedriga (President of the Conference of the Regions), Michele de Pascale (Upi) and Antonio Decaro (Anci). The ministers responsible for the matters covered by differentiated autonomy will then take part in the booth.
Towards differentiated autonomy
To understand the possible practical implications of the move, it is enough to go back to the debate that had rekindled in recent weeks after Calderoli had presented the “working notes” on the framework law for differentiated autonomy to the regions. That draft envisaged the transfer of functions on the basis of historical expenditure if the essential levels of services had not been defined within a year: a bipartisan alarm had started from the South on the risk of further impoverishing the South by rewarding the Northern territories. The minister said he was open to modification proposals and a new text could arrive within the next two weeks.
The essential levels of performance
But what does the risk depend on? In extreme synthesis, the problem can be posed in these terms. The criterion of historical expenditure crystallizes the current distribution of resources, and generally rewards the North where public services are on average more developed and expenditure is also proportionally higher. The essential levels of services, an eternal promise of fiscal federalism that has not been implemented up to now, aim instead to be a guarantee for the less advanced areas because, as the new provision included in the text of the budget law also states, they measure “the spending threshold constitutionally necessary to disburse social services of a fundamental nature» as well as to regulate the financial relations between the State and the autonomies and «to promote a fair and efficient allocation of resources connected to the Pnrr».
The expected acceleration in the manoeuvre
Therefore, if differentiated autonomy starts at historical expense, the areas richest in services and public spending benefit. If, on the other hand, the Lep arrive first, the weakest areas are protected. Because if the expenditure is “constitutionally necessary”, it must be guaranteed with state support in the regions where it cannot be fully covered by local fiscal capacities. So far the theory. The practice should begin to take shape shortly. But the legislation being maneuvered can establish a solid barrier also because the work on the Lep is not at year zero, in the commission on standard requirements a study has begun on some less demanding functions (for example the right to study) the technical mechanisms that they can also be replicated on other subjects. Now the budget law will ask to speed up.