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Manager or professional politician? Local fiscal autonomy and the skills of elected officials

Massimo Bordignon (), Matteo Gamalerio and Gilberto Turati ()

Regional Science and Urban Economics, 2020, vol. 83, issue C

Abstract: We provide a theoretical and empirical assessment of why local fiscal autonomy can affect the skills of elected officials in sub-national governments. We first develop a model of politics with different types of politicians and show that – following a tax decentralization reform increasing local fiscal autonomy – politicians with high administrative skills are elected in rich jurisdictions while politicians with high political skills are elected in poor ones. As a result, voter welfare increases only, or mainly, in rich jurisdictions. We then look for empirical support to these predictions by exploiting the decentralization reforms affecting Italian municipalities in the '90s. These reforms introduced both the direct election of the mayor and new autonomous tax tools for municipalities characterized by large differences in their tax bases. Our estimates – robust to several alternative stories – emphasize a differential change in elected officials at the municipal level between rich and poor jurisdictions. These findings provide a new explanation for the observed poor performance of local governments largely financed by grants.

Keywords: Decentralization; Skills of politicians; Fiscal autonomy (search for similar items in EconPapers)
JEL-codes: D72 D78 (search for similar items in EconPapers)
Date: 2020
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DOI: 10.1016/j.regsciurbeco.2020.103529

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