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"Rabble against the state financial equalization is pure election campaign folklore"

For months, Bavaria's Prime Minister Markus Söder only threatened to take the step.

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"Rabble against the state financial equalization is pure election campaign folklore"

For months, Bavaria's Prime Minister Markus Söder only threatened to take the step. In time for the upcoming state elections on October 8, the state government now wants to get serious: Before the middle of the year, the Free State will file a lawsuit with the Federal Constitutional Court against the state financial equalization, announced the CSU leader in the "Bild am Sonntag".

It would be the third lawsuit by the Free State against the mechanism that transfers billions in taxes from financially strong to weaker federal states in order to adjust living conditions. Bavaria had already moved to Karlsruhe in 1999 and 2013, both times alongside Hesse, which may also move this time – there will also be elections on October 8th. Baden-Württemberg was also on board with the first lawsuit. The state trio was successful at the time: the judges in Karlsruhe demanded new rules for the federal and state governments for the billion-dollar transfers.

But even this set of rules could not end the ongoing dispute between donors and recipients of the billions in taxes. However, there has been no further judge's decision so far: Bavaria and Hesse withdrew their second lawsuit in 2017 after the federal and state governments had agreed on a new distribution mechanism. This has been in effect since the beginning of 2020 and is called "state power equalization".

At the table at the negotiations at the time: Markus Söder. As Bavarian Minister of Finance, he was extremely satisfied with the reform compromise that had been reached. But he has long since struck a different chord, and there is also great dissatisfaction in Hesse. "It's just unfair and unfair," said Söder. His state does not want to abolish the compensation, but reform it and relieve the Bavarian taxpayers. One is “solidarity, but not naive”. He also complained that the federal government had no heart for the South. “This can be felt everywhere: subsidies are being cut and projects are being deliberately canceled. So we have to do everything ourselves.”

Last year, Bavaria shouldered almost 9.9 billion euros, more than half of the total equalization burden, which amounted to 18.5 billion euros. 3.2 billion euros were withdrawn from Hesse and 4.5 billion from Baden-Württemberg. The largest chunk went to Berlin, which benefited with 3.6 billion euros, followed by Saxony (3.3 billion). However, with the exception of Hesse, Söder can hardly hope for much political support.

In the Bundestag, only the Union and the AfD show understanding for the announced initiative. The budgetary spokesman for the AfD parliamentary group, Peter Boehringer, points to AfD's own long-standing demands to reform the state financial equalization system.

The CDU MP Christian Haase finds reforms "good" because the compensation is "far too non-transparent". However, the past has shown: "It will be a Herculean task." And at state level, at least the finance ministers of the northern states of Schleswig-Holstein, Lower Saxony, Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania, Bremen and Hamburg have recently clearly committed to the current system, which will continue until the end of the decade is valid. "Solidarity among each other is too important to sacrifice in the election campaign in the Bavarian beer tent," said Hamburg Finance Senator Andreas Dressel (SPD) after a meeting of finance ministers.

His party friend Michael Schrodi, spokesman on finance for the SPD parliamentary group, sounds similar. "The rabble against the state financial equalization is pure election campaign folklore," says the MP WELT. "Mr. Söder was in charge of negotiating the state financial equalization before the last Bavarian state election and described it as a big hit." Now that elections are due again, the Prime Minister is threatening to sue. "It's the same Söder who praised Andreas Scheuer as Federal Minister of Transport for having raked in more money than any other minister before in Bavaria."

Those who, like the CSU, serve their own state with immense sums from the federal government, must also do a little more with the state financial equalization. Green financial politician Katharina Beck accuses Söder of "excessive self-centeredness" and warns: "We can only get through this crisis together." All states benefited in their own way from the federal government with the others, Bavaria, for example, through nationwide electricity prices, "which the failed energy policy of the CSU balance".

FDP parliamentary group leader Christoph Meyer reminds Söder that the compensation that has been in force since 2020 was passed with the votes of the CSU. The question shows that the CSU "also has a very limited, almost schizophrenic horizon on central issues". A reorganization of federal and state finances is definitely something to talk about - but in a completely different way. "It cannot be that the federal government takes over original state tasks permanently."

Meyer counters Söder's criticism that the traffic light coalition has "no heart for the South" by saying that the federal government made 72 billion euros available for original tasks of the federal states this year alone. "Countries like Bavaria benefit disproportionately from this."

CSU boss Söder shares at the political Ash Wednesday: Among other things, he accuses the federal government of a catastrophic management of migration policy - and this at a time when the number of migrants and refugees is higher than in 2015/16.

Source: WORLD

Christian Görke, spokesman for left-wing finance policy in the Bundestag and former Finance Minister of Brandenburg, is also harsh on Söder. He calls the CSU leader's criticism of the financial equalization he himself negotiated "absurd": "Even after the last change in the state financial equalization, Bavaria's financial strength remains at 108 percent, i.e. eight percent above the state average. Anyone who keeps quiet about this in the political debate or wants to change it is not only dishonest and lacking in solidarity, but is also taking the ax to the harmonization of living conditions in the East German states.”

Before the amendment of the state financial equalization system, the average financial strength of the eastern states was only 75 to 78 percent. And the solidarity pact funds for the increase expired at the end of 2019. With new supplementary federal funds and the compensatory funds from donor countries, the eastern German states in particular would be raised to around 98 to 100 percent of the state average. "This prevents further drifting apart between East and West and corresponds to the principle of uniformity of living conditions anchored in the Basic Law."

"Kick-off Politics" is WELT's daily news podcast. The most important topic analyzed by WELT editors and the dates of the day. Subscribe to the podcast on Spotify, Apple Podcasts, Amazon Music, among others, or directly via RSS feed.

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