Legislators from at least half the states are meeting in Phoenix, Arizona this week to plan “a prospective convention for proposing a balanced budget amendment to the United States Constitution.” This meeting is one of the most important events held as part of the growing movement to invoke Article V of the U.S. Constitution to enact a balanced budget amendment.
The Heartland Institute has encouraged scholars and institutions across America to study how best to use Article V to restore the proper tension between the powers of state governments and the federal government, as the framers of the Constitution intended. Heartland takes no position on the many competing proposals in the Article V movement. Review Heartland’s work on this subject at our Center for Constitutional Reform and at the special page we have created for the Arizona meeting.
This week’s planning meeting was called under the authority of Arizona House Concurrent Resolution 2022. It is not an official convention of states under Article V, but the legislators gathering there are using the meeting to outline the procedures necessary for an orderly future convention.
In recent years, the United States’ national debt has ballooned to greater than $19 trillion, causing numerous advocacy groups concerned about reining in out-of-control government spending to urge state lawmakers to enact an Article V amendments convention for the purpose of enacting a balanced budget amendment. Under Article V, two-thirds of state legislatures, currently 34, can approve and submit applications to Congress to call a convention of the states. Once a convention has been called, states, without the approval of Congress, can pass amendments to the Constitution. Once ratified by three-fourths of states, those amendments become law.
The following statements from constitutional reform experts at The Heartland Institute – a free-market think tank – may be used for attribution. For more comments, refer to the contact information below. To book a Heartland guest on your program, please contact Media Specialist Billy Aouste at [email protected] and 312/377-4000 or (cell) 847/445-7554.
“This balanced budget amendment planning convention is the proper first step to inform and educate all Americans about the power granted to the states in Article V of the U.S. Constitution. The result of the work of this convention of states, the first one called since 1861, will accomplish:
“(1) A set of rules that an official Article V amendment convention will operate under. These rules will show the amendment convention can operate legally and orderly within the scope of the applications states have submitted to Congress;
“(2) Going forward, establish a strong working relationship between state legislators from across the nation;
“(3) Put together a wise and virtuous team of individuals from across the states to report to Congress the result of this convention, thereby giving Congress the confidence the second operation of Article V is the proper vehicle to reorder the relationship between the several states and the national government they created;
“(4) Determine the objections that must be overcome by those states that do not have an active application on file with Congress calling for an amendment convention to consider a balanced budget amendment to the U.S. Constitution.
“This is a heavy lift by the states who have sent a delegation to this planning convention, and I commend Arizona for having the political courage to call this convention of states.”
Mr. Schuerer is an Iowa delegate to the Balanced Budget Amendment Planning Convention in Phoenix, Arizona, held September 12–15, 2017.
“It is both sad and encouraging 25 of these United States have designated representatives to propose a balanced budget to the U.S. Constitution. It’s sad that such a thing is necessary, but it’s quite encouraging that despite Congress’ failures, half the states are prepared to solve this important problem on their own.
“A basic responsibility of any government is to spend the taxpayers’ money wisely, which is to say parsimoniously. The failure of Congress – year in and year out, Republican and Democrat – to do so is manifest in the series of continuing resolutions and debt ceiling increases that masquerade as the current U.S. budget.
“If the federal government will not rein itself in, then it is the responsibility of the states to do so. Here’s wishing them luck!”
“It is a perennial complaint of those who would have judges alter the meaning of the U.S. Constitution by judicial decision that a document crafted by 55 men meeting in Philadelphia 230 years ago cannot possibly be suitable for a dynamic nation whose composition and needs have changed dramatically over the past two centuries. There is some truth in this, but our Framers provided a mechanism to attune the Constitution to the times: the Article V process, which they contemplated would be used much more frequently than it has.
“If some of the timeless political principles of the Constitution – such as limited government, the rule of law, and popular sovereignty – are to be preserved, amending the Constitution may now be the only means of doing so, as the federal government has demonstrated a tendency, especially during the previous administration, to ignore the constitutional structure of checks and balances. It is long past time the American people rein in the national government’s misbehavior, and a balanced budget amendment is a fine place to start.”
Mr. Presser is the author of Law Professors: Three Centuries of Shaping American Law (West Academic Publishing, 2017), which calls on the American people to pass a constitutional amendment.
“The legislators are not focusing on the main problem. The main reason for unbalanced budgets is excessive government spending. If we will achieve balanced budgets by increasing taxes rather than reducing expenses, the situation is not likely to improve.
“Some countries have addressed the issue of excessive government spending more directly. Switzerland has passed legislation restricting the growth in government spending to adjustments for inflation and population growth. As economies tend to grow at a faster rate than inflation and population growth, this leads to the decline in government spending as a percent of gross domestic product, which makes it easier to balance budgets. While additional drastic cuts in government expenses would be more useful, this may be a more politically feasible step.”
“Not all Heartland advisors favor this amendment. In fact, some believe, as I do, it is a huge mistake. Despite comments to the contrary, there is absolutely no assurance that an Article V convention will not be a runaway one, like the Constitutional Convention of 1787, and there’s also no assurance conservatives and libertarians will control it.”
Dr. Young was a professor of constitutional law for 35 years.