Virginia House calls for constitutional ammendment on federal balanced budget; state budget update
The House of Delegates has passed a measure that would petition the U.S. Congress to call a Constitutional Convention for the purpose of mandating a balanced budget policy for the federal government ... and state budget conferees are inching closer to a cohesive spending plan to present to the legislature.
For the second time in a year, the House of Delegates has passed a bill that would petition Congress to call a Constitutional Convention. The first attempt was to amend the Constitution to allow a majority vote by two-thirds of the state legislatures to repeal a federal law. The bill, authored by Speaker of the House Bill Howell, was quickly defeated in a Senate subcommittee.
The new bill, offered by Governor Bob McDonnell and patroned by Republican Delegate Ben Cline of Rockbridge, would ask Congress to amend the Constitution to require a balanced budget for the federal government.
Delegate Ben Cline.
Cline: I think that the more states that speak up and say 'we want Congress to right its ship and take care of its books,' I think that you’ll get a response from Congress. Maybe they’ll consider the balanced budget amendment themselves, rather than have it forced upon them in the form of a convention, so this is one step in the process and I hope the Senate will pass it as well and we’ll keep pushing it in other states.
Congressman Goodlatte holds the balanced budget amendment in the House and John Cornyn from Texas, Senator Cornyn holds it in the Senate. The two of them have been working state to state to get these types of resolutions approved. Governor McDonnell is supportive because he served in this General Assembly and had to balance his budget every year. With a 14 trillion-dollar debt, Congress has abused the responsibility to keep our fiscal house in order and we need to restore some order to it if Congress won’t take care of it themselves, so it's putting the responsibility back in the hands of the people to right the ship.
Democratic Delegate Joe Morrissey of Henrico says both bills are just an effort to secure votes in the election this fall.
Morrissey: We haven’t had a constitutional convention in this country since 1787, so it’s only been about 224 years. It’s all symbolic; not a person in that General Assembly, not one single person actually believes we’re going to hold a constitutional convention like we had in 1787 in Philadelphia. It’s all symbolic; it's all done to simply posture to the base to get re-elected or win a primary.
With respect to the Governor’s amendment, it says ‘I want to balance the budget’ and it talks about the trillions that have been spent in the last 10 years as if this will cure that, but then at the bottom of it, it says if we’re in time of war, this amendment doesn’t apply. Well, guess what? We’ve been at war for a decade. So this resolution would be of zero legal efficacy. We haven’t solved all of Virginia’s problems yet. Let’s not solve Washington’s until we get our own ducks and our own issues in order.
The bill is expected to be quickly defeated in the Senate. In other news, House and Senate budget conferees are still trying to reach an agreement on major differences in their proposed amendments to the state’s two-year spending plan.
Republican House Majority Leader and Budget Conferee, Kirk Cox.
Cox: We’re making some progress. As we’ve said before, the House made a proposal, probably four days ago, that basically we felt very strongly about our priorities on structural integrity of the budget; we made a proposal to basically say 'let's go fifty percent towards our structural side and fifty percent towards our spending.' We've had about five offers go back and forth on that. I would say we're somewhat close, we're not there on that, so until we solve that problem, we really cannot break up into the subcommittees then to handle out the details, but I do think we're making some progress. I'd like to make more, but I do think it's going along.
The negotiators must reach an agreement to present to the rest of the legislature by Saturday in order to adjourn on time.
Craig Carper, WCVE News, Capitol Square