The Wisconsin State Legislature approved a joint resolution calling on Congress to convene a convention to draft a constitutional amendment requiring a balanced federal budget.
The Wisconsin State Senate approved Assembly Joint Resolution 21, sponsored by state Sen. Chris Kapenga (R-Delafield), on November 7, 2017 after the Wisconsin House of Representatives approved it on June 14.
Article V of the U.S. Constitution establishes processes for enacting amendments, including a method for states to propose amendments. After 34 state legislatures approve a resolution calling for an amendment convention, commissioners selected by state lawmakers meet to draft an amendment, limited to the resolution’s listed topic.
Wisconsin is the 28th state to approve the resolution proposed by the Balanced Budget Amendment Task Force (BBATF).
Starting the Discussion
Kapenga says the resolution signals a desire to get people talking about solving the federal spending problem.
“This is simply the state legislature saying we want to get together to have the discussion on what an amendment for a balanced budget would actually say,” Kapenga said. “That’s what this resolution does: It adds us to the number of states who want to have that discussion.”
Kapenga says the amendment convention process was included in the Constitution to enable the states to rein in an out-of-control national government.
“This goes back to why the Founders put that clause into Article V,” Kapenga said. “It’s for situations where our country is at risk, and the federal government is either unwilling or unable to act on their own. The states have to recognize that the Founders were looking for us to step up in this specific situation.”
A Growing Problem
The national government is taking on more debt every year, Kapenga says, and it has to stop.
“We have zero plan to pay it back,” Kapenga said. “Congress is trying to just balance their yearly budget, and that doesn’t even get into the debt load that we have.”
Restraining Federal Power
Loren Enns, BBATF’s director of state campaigns, says Washington, DC won’t willingly live within its means.
“The federal government has not truly balanced the budget since 1957,” Enns said. “They claim they did in the late 1990s, but that was only after raiding the Social Security and Medicare trust funds.
“The endgame is to put some sort of fiscal restraint on the federal government,” Enns said. “Right now, there is none. Thomas Jefferson acknowledged that back in the 1790s, and he was really the first one historically to point out that the federal government really had no limit on its borrowing.”
State Lawmakers Empowered
State lawmakers have more power over the national government than they may realize, Enns says.
“State legislators need to remember that, ultimately, true power under our form of government rests with the states,” Enns said. “The states do retain technical absolute power over the federal government. It’s sad if they ever forget that or are ever afraid to use it.”