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Lombardy governor wants own tax agency, currency

'System would be more competent than Equitalia' says Maroni

04 April, 17:57
Lombardy governor wants own tax agency, currency (By Christopher Livesay) (ANSA) - Milan, April 4 - Taxes in Northern Italy should be collected by local authorities, who would be more competent than the national agency Equitalia, Lombardy Governor and Northern League President Roberto Maroni said Thursday.

In tough economic times, he said in a speech, the region would benefit from a new payment system by which it would control "at least 75% of tax revenues" generated in the area. It should also have its own currency - something the regionalist movement has long championed. Maroni said it would be "complementary" to the euro. The subject will be further studied with involvement from "key stakeholders, such as banks, associations, institutions, and chambers of commerce," said the regional governor. Maroni's Northern League, which promotes the interests of the more wealthy, powerful north over those of the economically weaker south, is closely allied with ex-premier Silvio Berlusconi's People of Freedom (PdL) party. Maroni has said that is because Berlusconi's party has pledged that if it regains control of the government, it would remit the 75% of northern taxes demanded by the League.

Attacks on Equitalia and the unpopular IMU property tax were hobbyhorses during the recent campaign season for the center-right coalition of the League and the much larger PdL, which supported Maroni in his successful bid to govern Lombardy.

The anti-tax platform is largely credited with resurrecting the PdL from what was seen as almost certain defeat to the center left in the weeks leading up to elections late February. But the center left, led by Pier Luigi Bersani, lost its grip on the majority by the time Italians turned out to the polls, largely due to the populist platforms of the center right and the upstart anti-establishment 5-Star Movement (M5S) of comedian Beppe Grillo. Together, Berlusconi and Grillo pulled in over 50% of the vote, which has led to a three-way stalemate in the parliament.

Bersani, who controls the House but not the Senate, was handed a government-formation mandate at the end of March. But he has failed to win support from the M5S, which refuses to cooperate with Bersani, "a dead man talking", according to Grillo, who allegedly represents a corrupt establishment elite. Berlusconi and the center right have offered to form a grand coalition with Bersani, something the former Communist outright refuses given the parties' fundamental political differences. In an effort to break the gridlock, Italian President Giorgio Napolitano has formed a group of 10 so-called "wise men" from across party lines to come together and hash out platforms that the three big parties in parliament can stomach. Political analysts say the uncertainty has given fuel to the fire behind the Northern League's patent euro-scepticism. Its former leader, Umberto Bossi, once called the European Union "a Jacobin superstate," "Stalinist" and a "Western Soviet Union". More recently, the party was staunchly opposed to the outgoing administration of premier Mario Monti, a former EU commissioner. Maroni, a former interior minister, said this past July that the EU should change its handling of the economic crisis or it would be "better to leave the euro".