“If this debate has to be labeled in any way, it is that it is a brown.” No one could have described better than the Canarian deputy Pedro Quevedo the challenge facing the Minister of Finance, María Jesús Montero, to articulate a new regional financing system. The current one, which dates from 2009, has expired for seven years. The Government has promised to present in November a draft with the new distribution principles for the autonomies of the common regime (all with the exception of Euskadi and Navarra). Meanwhile, the pressure exerted by each of the community blocks is increasing. It is one of the few cross-cutting issues in which the battle does not depend on political color: PP and PSOE agree or disagree depending on the territories.
An alliance beyond parties: Puig and Moreno Bonilla join forces to reform the distribution of State resources
The regional financing system establishes the distribution of resources for the provision of public services such as health, education or dependency, which account for the bulk of State investment and which are transferred powers. The model is convoluted and the debate is carried out by territorial interests. Despite the climate of political tension that leads to a lack of understanding between the two major parties in practically everything, unexpected alliances emerge in the battle for financing.
The Government is also aware of the complexity to carry out a new system for which it needs not only the support of the Council for Fiscal and Financial Policy, but also the absolute majority of Congress. For this reason, Montero demanded a common position from the “general parties” the other day. “It is not worth that each one, depending on the place where he travels, is transferring things diametrically opposed to what he says when he travels to another part of Spain,” he warned.
The debate divides Spain into three large blocks, as recognized by the minister herself. On the one hand, Galicia, Asturias, Cantabria, La Rioja, Castilla y León, Extremadura, Castilla-La Mancha and Aragón –with similar characteristics due to depopulation, aging or extension– claim that these criteria have greater weight when defining the early cast. “100,000 people can live in Paseo de la Castellana, which are the same as in the entire Cuenca mountain range, and providing services in that territory is much more expensive,” says a La Mancha leader. What these territories want is for the system to be based on the “effective cost” of providing public services.
The ‘rich’ communities such as Madrid, Catalonia or the Balearic Islands are more in favor of the principle of ordinality, that is, that the distribution is made according to the number of citizens and that there is a higher percentage of transfer of personal income tax by the State. In a middle way are the Valencian Community, Andalusia and Murcia, which bet on the concept of “adjusted population”, that is to say, that weighs the population criterion with certain adjustments – aging, young population for educational needs or dispersion -, but they advocate for eliminate the funds that have hampered financing in those territories with the so-called status quo by which the new system is prevented from harming the communities with respect to the previous distributions and that, according to Juan Pérez, of the Valencian Institute of Economic Research, cause the distribution to be “distorted” based on “needs”.
Cross Alliance Valencian Community – Andalusia
The president who has most insisted on the need to change the regional financing model has been Ximo Puig, whose region is the most affected by the current model. In direct competition with Compromís for the banner of the fight against under-financing, the Valencian president has initiated a round of contacts with his counterparts with whom he has similar demands. He tried without much success to make a common front with the Catalan, Pere Aragonès, and what most stung in the socialist ranks was his alliance with the president of the Junta de Andalucía, Juanma Moreno.
The PSOE has not overcome the trauma of having lost Andalusia for the first time after 37 uninterrupted years of power and the fear is that Juan Espadas will not recover it in the next elections. Hence, Puig held a meeting with the leader of the Andalusian PSOE after his official meeting with Moreno. The Socialists claim that it was precisely the Andalusian Government in the hands of Susana Díaz that promoted the first autonomous proposal to reform the financing model that was raised to the Ministry of Finance, which was then piloted by Cristóbal Montoro.
Both Puig and Moreno place their alliance on an institutional level and not on a “front” against other territories. The first maintains that each Valencian receives about 200 euros less than the national average and the second, that the figure is 110 in the case of Andalusians. In addition to changing the system, they advocated creating a transitional compensation fund until it is operational. Puig has even proposed that the capital effect of Madrid be compensated in some way.
The ’empty Spain’ adds its demands
Facing this block of communities – more populated – are those of ’empty Spain’ or more rural, which have reactivated a group that already in 2018 signed an institutional declaration in which they demanded a “total leveling system” to guarantee funds for the provision of public services under equal conditions. Then Sánchez had stirred up the PSOE by recognizing that there would be no new system that legislature.
The intention now is to repeat that meeting in Santiago in October, just before Montero puts the proposed new system on the table. The summit sponsored by Alberto Núñez Feijóo (PP) will be attended by socialist presidents such as Javier Lambán or Emiliano García-Page, as happened three years ago.
The economic vice president, Nadia Calviño, who recently met with Puig and Moreno, caused unrest in the socialist ranks during her visit to Valencia by ensuring that the priority right now is the budgets. “Demonstrations that start from a position that tries to lead to a confrontation between the territories and the citizens or approaches of confrontation between parties do not serve for this type of questions. This type of questions and negotiations have to be approached with this constructive perspective because they are not An approach that creates blocks or that tries to generate gaps leads to nothing good, “said Calviño, who assured that Montero will present a proposal for an adjusted population criterion.
As that moment approaches, the blocs have been rearming themselves for the battle that will not be easy due to the convoluted system and the different territorial interests. In the case of the Socialists, the tension has been increasing as the presentation of the proposal approaches and there are even a couple of federations that want to raise the matter in the 40th Congress, among them the Valencian one – which has yet to do so. define – and the Balearic Islands, which wants to tackle the problem of overpopulation on the islands. The presentation prepared by Ferraz speaks of the need to reform the system and, above all, emphasizes the demographic challenge of ’emptied Spain’.
“It is not a party issue. There will not be a party position, because we are not going to agree,” admit sources close to a socialist president. In the Government they are aware of the pressure and try to distribute it with the PP. “Can the Popular Party reconcile the position of Andalusia and Madrid? They are two autonomous communities that are governed by the same political formation and that defend radically different models. What will be the vote or the position of the Popular Party? Perhaps, in this case, Mrs. Díaz Ayuso from the Community of Madrid is more aligned with the position of the Catalan parties than with what Andalusia or Galicia may have, for example, “said Montero in the gallery of the Congress. Finding a new autonomous financing system is one of Sánchez’s great challenges on the territorial level beyond the Catalan conflict and the demographic challenge.