Today’s meeting of the National Cooperation Council of Local Governments became a spectacular theater. Representatives of the invited municipal organizations did not receive answers to practically any of the questions.
The presidents of the invited municipal interest associations were able to watch a spectacular presentation on the state of public finances, but there was no mention of how the government would compensate municipalities that recorded significant losses due to the epidemic, crisis and government withdrawals. Then, despite the fact that the municipal leaders asked their questions in vain, they still did not receive a meaningful answer. Thus, there is no answer as to what the government justifies halving the business tax, which is a significant source of revenue for most municipalities, after previous deductions, including car tax and tourist tax deductions and free parking. Nor was there an answer as to why ten cities with county status received HUF 1.38 billion before Christmas and why the others did not? Nor did they receive an answer from the Secretary of State Tibor Pogácsás, representing the Ministry of the Interior, and the Deputy Secretary of State Ábel Berczik, present on behalf of the Ministry of Finance, on how the timetable for individual negotiations with settlements with more than 25,000 people will develop. Representatives of the ministries answered virtually no questions. Thus, local governments must plan and adopt this year’s budget in such a way that they do not have accurate information about the financial framework, emphasized György Gémesi, president of the Association of Hungarian Local Governments, at a press conference after the hearing. Leaders of municipal interest groups have not even been promised that negotiations on compensation will continue. We have no reason to be happy – admitted Gergely Karácsony, Mayor of Budapest. – During the discussion, it became quite clear that the government has no plans to compensate for measures that put local governments at a disadvantage. Although half of the Hungarian population lives in settlements in difficult situations. According to Christmas, the halving of the business tax is a highly debatable step, as it is paid for by companies on profits. Anyone who has been hit hard by the crisis is paying less anyway, and the one who has benefited from it does not need government help. Municipalities, on the other hand, are forced to post a serious loss of revenue because of this. Budapest and the districts can expect a HUF 80 billion loss of revenue last year and this year. The capital started this year with no shot at what the government is offering in return for the withdrawal. But the mayor fears nothing. With the distribution of money before Christmas, the government spectacularly divided Hungarian citizens into two groups; The mayor of Budapest emphasized that even before the business tax was met, the capital’s budget could only be balanced at the expense of reserves, and the city has nowhere to go. Asked that Gergely Gulyás had called Budapest a city rich in government information in the morning, he replied: “Budapest may be a rich city, but its municipality is poor and it is Minister Gulyás who needs to know best who made it.” The city administration will do its utmost to ensure that the quality of public services in Budapest remains the same, but if the attitude of the government does not change, the solvency of the capital’s local government cannot be guaranteed. But bankrupt the city rather than shut down public services, the mayor said. Budapest is not yet preparing for a protest action similar to the one before Christmas, when the decorative lighting was turned off for an hour in protest. Next week, however, they will launch a public information campaign. Responding to a question from Népszava, he said that the use of the recovery fund was also only discussed from scratch in today’s discussion on how to reimburse local governments for their direct epidemiological costs. He is very confident that the recovery fund can lead to developments in which local governments can play a role. Despite the government’s anti-self-government policy, municipal leaders offered to help develop and implement the vaccination program. Cooperation would be justified only because the government relies on GPs, who in turn are the contractual partners of the municipalities. However, for the time being, even institutions, such as residents and workers in nursing homes, do not receive prior information about vaccinations. Half of the residents of the institutions maintained in the capital were vaccinated.
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