Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Constitutional Amendment: Balanced Budget

Attending the GOP Senate Primary debates hosted by WXNT and Hoosier Access had five candidates that basically agreed on everything. Fellow bloggers over at iPOPA, Indy Democrat, Blue Indiana, and Hoosier Access, have covered these extensively and I have no real desire to echo most of their concerns.

But one idea from the candidates that they all agreed on was this talk of an amendment to the federal constitution that would require the federal budget to be balanced. And this bothers me for a few reasons, both in it's application as a constitutional amendment and how effective such a requirement would be.

Here in Indiana, we actually have a requirement within the state constitution that says the state, cities, and so on can not go into debt. However, the city of Indianapolis has skirted around this issue for years by playing with the numbers until they're balanced. It might be by factoring in a grant that hasn't been awarded to the city yet, or maybe allocating money that hasn't been collected yet to fill a budget shortfall. But it's done, and done often.

The other way cities skirt around balanced budgets is hiding debt into municipal corporations. According to a ruling by the Supreme Court of Indiana, municipal corporations do not have to present balanced budgets. The Capital Improvement Board did this for several years and is doing it still now.

So even though we have it built into our constitution, those in power have found ways to circumvent it while still technically meeting the requirements. That, in my eyes, is enough evidence to not spend effort on this amendment that all the Senate primary candidates are pushing.

Finally, it's a waste of time. Constitutional amendments are hard to pass even with widespread support. And they shouldn't be done because spending has become a contemporary issue by the TEA Party.

Want a balanced budget? Work to pass one. You shouldn't need the Constitution to help you to do so. And even if it became a requirement, those that want to get around would find a way.

We've got real issues to deal with. Don't waste time messing with our Constitution.

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