The Senate on Thursday voted into law the bill cutting Buenos Aires City’s slice of federal revenue-sharing funds by a 40-25 vote, thus sending City Mayor Horacio Rodríguez Larreta scurrying back to the Supreme Court.
The bill had been amended in the Chamber of Deputies in order to ensure a majority (notably leaving the City’s police budget to be defined by a two-month commission rather than capped immediately), thus necessitating renewed Upper House passage.
The cuts decreed by President Alberto Fernández back in September when faced with a potential Buenos Aires provincial police mutiny have now been confirmed by Congress.
Rodríguez Larreta reacted by saying that he would insist on the Supreme Court defining an issue which it has dodged until now, ruling the bill unconstitutional. He also said that he has already started raising taxes, introducing a levy on financial transactions, in order to counter the shortfall from the revenue-sharing cuts.
As from last Thursday the 60 days of the two-month commission agreed with Córdoba Governor Juan Schiaretti in order to gain the support of his deputies start ticking. Last week at a press conference Rodríguez Larreta said he strongly doubted that there could be any good intentions in the two-month dialogue stipulated by the bill.
In Thursday’s debate the City’s sole Frente de Todos Senator Mariano Recalde denied that there was any cut in federal revenue-sharing, saying that the bill merely corrected an excessive transfer by the Mauricio Macri administration when the Federal Police passed to City Hall. But the City’s two other senators, the Radical Martín Lousteau and PRO’s Guadalupe Tagliaferri, both contested his argument.
Lousteau said that ever since the 1991 decentralisation of education and health to the provinces without the corresponding funds, this had been expressly forbidden by Article 75 of the 1994 Constitution. He especially resisted the claim of some Peronists that all excess funds received by the City since 2016 should be returned, arguing that during a decade Santa Cruz had received nine times its per capita share of discretionary transfers or some 287 billion pesos without anybody demanding its return. Tagliaferri branded the bill a violation of federalist autonomy.
Senator Oscar Parrilli (Frente de Todos-Neuquén) offered one of the harshest speeches, saying the bill “puts an end to privileges which offend Argentines and to the authoritarian abuses of power of the previous president."
Juntos por el Cambio opposition ally Senator Juan Carlos Romero (Peronist-Salta) countered: "All my life I’ve fought against centralism and I have no complexes in saying that there is no justice here but a quest for revenge for something as evident as the City of Buenos Aires not voting for the government.”
City Hall complains that since the presidential decree was signed on September 9, it has been losing 150 million pesos daily, projecting to a loss of 53-65 billion pesos next year.