| August 3, 2011

Opportunity for better balanced budget amendment

As the U.S. House of Representatives considered S. 365 last night, I reviewed the language included in S. 365 pertaining to a balanced budget amendment. As amended by the House, sections 201 and 202 of S. 365 require the House and Senate to vote on a "Joint resolution proposing a balanced budget amendment to the Constitution of the United States.” Under the requirements of S. 365, consideration of the joint resolution must occur between October 1, 2011 and December 31, 2011.

The detail that jumped out at me is that there is absolutely nothing within S. 365 defining the characteristics of a balanced budget amendment. My cynical side thinks the joint resolution conceivably could be reported out of Congress lacking a legitimate balanced budget requirement. Perhaps a more positive perspective is that the anticipated joint resolution presents an opportunity to create a balanced budget amendment with better features than the version referenced in the legislation passed out of the House last week and later killed in the Senate.

In particular, passage of S. 365 offers a new opportunity to include a constitutional reserve fund requirement which is a critical characteristic. Inclusion in a balanced budget amendment would prevent Congress from immediately spending every penny collected, thus allowing significant mitigation of the inevitable downturns in revenue. A number of the states successfully utilize a constitutional reserve fund; there is no good reason that Congress should not do the same.

Last Friday, 64 members of the Oklahoma Legislature declared their support for a balanced budget amendment to the U.S. Constitution. In my opinion, this indicates the people of Oklahoman want to halt deficit spending in Washington, D.C. and want the federal government to live within the taxpayers’ means.

I commend the proactive stance of the Oklahoma legislators who signed the letter and hope Oklahoma’s Congressional delegation will support inclusion of a constitutional reserve fund requirement in the proposed amendment. If Congress does pass a legitimate, balanced budget amendment, the Oklahoma Legislature should be the first to ratify such an amendment.

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