Budget solution will not be found in Convention of States

Proponents for an Article V Constitutional Convention say this is a necessary procedure. They profess it is necessary to implement a Balanced Budget Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, in order to control the National Debt.

This simply is not true.

The state of Idaho has a Balanced Budget amendment cradled within the Idaho Constitution and at the same time lists 1.38 billion dollars of long-term debt on its financial statements. This is the key — Budgets vs. Debt misleading the public. Budgets and Financial Statements are two separate reports providing different information. Idahoans are led to believe that all financial transactions are in the budgeting process. Citizens are never told that the budget is or will be balanced through borrowing more than Idaho collects in revenue. Many state legislators and county commissioners have voted for bonding measures without understanding the consequences. Debt is debt and there is no escaping this fact.

Idaho politicians have set up a handful of Bonding Authorities and Associations for specific financing purposes. They are legally separate from the State but intertwined and blended, which imposes a financial burden on the State. Here is an example of how this debt incurrence works; the Highway Department has an approved budget, but the budget does not cover the cost of replacing a bridge, which is on their wish list of projects for the fiscal year. No problem, the Idaho Housing and Finance Association can issue bonds to raise 100 million dollars and fund the project. The money is now put into the Highway Department’s budget and the project proceeds. The beauracrats are happy and Idaho looks good not spending more than they have in the budget. This basically works the same way at the county level as well. What citizens and legislators overlook is that the state now owes 100 million dollars and this is recorded as long-term debt on the separate financial statements. They have just kicked this debt can down the road to make Idaho’s 1st and 2nd graders pay for that bridge when they become adults and the bond comes due. Politicians can fund any pet project they want and disguise the debt incurred. A saddening yet ironic fact- Idaho passed the Balanced Budget Amendment in 1998. Before that time Idaho had zero long-term debt.

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Another example refuting the argument that a balanced budget will reduce debt is found in the state of Ohio. Governor Kasich has long been an advocate for an Article V and has said he is for a “Constitutional Convention for purposes of balancing the budget”. He toured the western states, stopping in Idaho a couple years ago to promote this idea. Ohio also has a balanced budget amendment in their constitution. Governor Kasich, one of the biggest cheerleaders of the Article V, has a debt in Ohio of 17.67 billion dollars.

As you can see, a Balanced Budget Amendment will not bring debt under control. If prudence is not being sought at the state and local level with existing balanced budget amendments in state constitutions, there will be no better adherence to an amendment at the federal level!

Furthermore, the idea of imposing term limits is another attempt to gain voter allegiance. Most voters would like term limits, but in all reality, the elected politicians are not going to vote themselves out of a job. Idaho voters passed a referendum to impose term limits in 1994. They reaffirmed this measure 3 more times in 1996, 1998 and 2000. In 2002 the Idaho Legislature ignored the will of the voters and repealed the term limit laws.

There are many citizens opposing a Constitutional Convention for fear of having the U.S. Constitution gutted or worse. These people are concerned with protecting God-given rights and liberties for everyone. I find them to be well studied, without a self-serving, political agenda and should not be dismissed as “far right” (Kasich). Dangerous consequences do exist. Look at the number of voters in this country that supported the avowed socialist candidate, Bernie Sanders.

Please, do not be fooled by the shenanigans of liberals wishing to attain a socialist utopia, nor swayed by the well-meaning conservatives saying, “We have to do something!” How many times do we hear this at legislative hearings and county commissioner meetings?

The solution is comprehensive education in Government Financial statements for those who have the spending authority and to stop creating Component Units of Government that do not have to adhere to Constitutional restraints.

The good people encouraging this perceived remedy should look to studying and understanding the financial labyrinth existing at the state and local levels, in every state. If interested parties join together by concentrating on the financial condition of each state and becoming knowledgeable on the Comprehensive Annual Financial Report (CAFR), state legislatures will enjoy true transparency and find a lasting solution to budget woes, without risking the pursuit of a Constitutional Convention.

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