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The paper discusses the reasons and possible resolutions of the contradictions in the Hungarian local government system, and proposes methods to resolve them. The nature of the Hungarian system cannot be described by classical normative theories of fiscal federalism. The operation of Hungarian local governments is determined rather by the decentralisation of conflicts stemming from the reduction of state responsibilities, and the resulting municipal behaviour. The second generation theory of fiscal federalism pays particular attention to the institutional guarantees of fiscal discipline shown by the lower levels of government sector. Actors in the Hungarian system, a system that functions as a ‘conflict container’, try to offset the financial pressures, weighing heavily on them by borrowing and by contingent liabilities. While central government has transferred new duties to local governments from year to year, it has reduced the amount of fiscal subsidies. Until a long-term comprehensive reform is implemented, consequent risks must be treated in the short run, as well.

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