… what if citizens decided how to use their own taxes?

A political party has not suggested it. This experience took place in various European cities, and throughout the world, not least Ichinomiya in Japan. The latter originates in the Percentage Law, which was enacted in Hungary in 1996. With this law, local governments call on communities to donate 1 or 2% of their income tax to non-governmental organizations and other similar groups in the community or district.

This citizen participation system of managing the public budget has been adopted in more than 3,000 cities around the world, including New York, Boston, and Paris. There are various types of participatory budgeting. In Paris for example, 5% of the budget is allocated  to construction and repairing of public buildings pointed out by citizens. Residents can propose projects to be carried out with the city’s budget provided. The selection of the projects to be funded is decided by public vote among residents. In this way: citizen’s wishes for how to use public budgets are reflected more directly; participation is increased; and at the same time people are made more responsible towards public goods and needs. In the end, the will to act directly on community-related problems can be found in many other sectors, such as community cleaning, safety patrols, and promoting sport, health and well-being.

Why is this being mentioned in the Experiences section?  Because: a) people keep complaining about public funds not going to good use ; b) there is a need to regain mechanisms of responsible and active citizen participation ; c) perhaps now is the time to learn to use and control the use of public funding instead of launching fundraising campaigns.

If you want to, or if you have to deal with the territory, you can start by asking that 1% of the municipal budget is dedicated to soil protection projects and recovery of its fertility. By the way, this is the best way to bring families and young people closer to understanding the soil/land/landscape importance. It is nothing transcendental; it is already happening that NGOs receive funds from national institutions or ministries for their projects as they are recognized in the public interest. Their action would be much more effective if supported by the recognition and control of the local population.

Residents of Ichinomiya City among others in Japan, have implemented a detailed scheme for the 1% budget support. Following project proposals, and according to the number of votes they receive, they are implemented together with a follow-up plan and support, all public and in the name of transparency. A high level of community and democratic participation is the result.  But there is more: in the spirit of wishing to learn more about similar experiences, they wish for people to write to them to share information and data.