Most of us intuitively believe that politicians reduce taxes and increase spending in the run up to elections to curry favour with voters. But our logic may well be flawed. This column presents evidence from recent Italian elections suggesting that things aren’t so black and white. Yes, some municipalities set lower tax rates in the run up to elections. But the evidence also suggests that municipalities running deficits will think twice about tax breaks and spending sprees. Politicians in big cities are also more cautious, choosing to focus not on tax but on more pressing local issues.