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Unformatted text preview: antonal constitutions for the communes so that citizens themselves
may take part in the decision-making process on all important political and economic issues. In local public finance, this
competence concerns: current budget, individual investment items of the capital budget, annual tax coefficients, user
charge regulations (taxation according to the benefit-principle in general), local public property sale or purchase,
horizontal co-operation in the form of inter-communal association or special purpose district for the joint production of
public facilities, and the amalgamation of communes.
In addition to participation, control and audit competencies of some sort exist in all direct democracy. The communal
assembly of citizens, or the communal "parliament" where it exists, elects a finance committee for the length of the
political term of office. This committee has not only traditional audit competencies, but also the duty to report to the
assembly about the financial aspects of capital expenditures, changes in taxation. In addition, it has the powers to
investigate financial matters without warning, if necessary. In some cantons, it may lodge a complaint against individual
members of the local authorities for misuse of public funds. 2.3. Initiative and referendum
When democracy is representative, which is the case in a large majority of the Cantons and in large cities, voters
express their preference about political and economic issues mainly via referenda, which may be brought up for vote
several times during a year. Together with popular initiatives, these institutions play a role of moderator for cantonal and
local governments, as usually all important public decisions are subject to the voters' approval. At the local level, the
most common items which might be included in the initiative or the referendum procedure are: individual investment
1 2 64 Title 3, chapter 2 of the new Federal Constitution of 1999 provides the enumeration of federal competencies. The constitutional articles also fix the
role of the Cantons for those functions. It follows that for a large number of public expenditures, the Cantons have only residual autonomy and act
rather as "agencies" for the centre.
The Federal Constitution of 1999 contains for the first time an explicit reference to the communes and municipalities. Art. 50 says: “(1) The autonomy
of the communes is guaranteed within the limits fixed by cantonal law. (2) In its activity, the Confederation shall take into account the possible
consequences for the communes. (3) In particular, it shall take into account the special situation of cities, agglomerations, and mountainous regions.” Commission on Fiscal Imbalance items of the capital budget, taxation, user charge regulations, property sales, co-operation in inter-communal
associations or special purpose districts, and the merging of communes.
Obviously these institutions of the federal system do not have a unique purpose of (economic) efficiency in the
performance of expenditures and taxation. The more direct and democratic the institutions are, the better is their general
capacity to strengthen the system of checks and balances, by both dividing and sharing political decision-making power.
They give citizens/voters/taxpayers multipl...
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