Enns calls states to action in campaign for a balanced budget amendment
Casper – “We are unrivaled militarily. If destruction be our lot, it is because we destroyed ourselves with debt,” said Director of State Campaigns for the Balanced Budget Amendment Task Force Loren Enns. “That is something that Congress is about to do in an absolutely spectacular fashion.”
In a presentation on the campaign for a balanced budget amendment during the Wyoming Stock Growers Association Winter Roundup on Dec. 6, Enns discussed the current state of the national budget, which has not been balanced since 1957, as well as how a convention of the states could be used to amend the Constitution.
“We cannot depend on Congress to discipline itself. Fortunately, our nation’s founders gave us the means to amend the Constitution through action of state legislatures,” Enns commented.
In 2016, the U.S. government borrowed $1.4 trillion, said Enns.
“When we look at the raw numbers, we started fiscal year 2016 at $18.1 trillion in debt. We ended the fiscal year at $19.5 trillion,” he stated. “The United States national debt is 21 times what it was in 1980.”
It is predicted that Congress will continue to borrow $1 trillion per year until the federal government is completely bankrupt.
“Congress will keep borrowing because it is systemic. It is built into the system. They don’t know how to escape the mess that they’ve made,” continued Enns
With the additional spending by the federal government, Enns noted that it would be logical for taxpayer income to increase dramatically. However, this does not match current trends.
“The average taxpayer makes $48,000 per year, and each person owes a staggering $166,000 as their share of the national debt,” stressed Enns.
“Under Article five of the U.S. Constitution, our founders gave the state legislatures absolute power over Washington,” said Enns. “That might seem like a radical statement, and if that’s the case, we’re in luck.”
In 1787, the U.S. founders granted state legislatures power to propose and ratify amendments, giving the states absolute power.
“There may be some debate about this power. There may be some fear about exercising it. The fact is, it is there,” continued Enns.
“If we as an entity, being one of the states, can propose and ratify amendments, that means that we can do whatever needs to be done to fix the problem,” he said.
Several safeguards are built into the process of a state convention to keep all powers, including those of the states, in check, said Enns.
The first safeguard is that 34 states, or two-thirds, must pass the specific resolution and then call a for a convention to propose a specific amendment.
“This threshold is so high, it’s never been reached in over the 200 years of our nation’s history because we’ve never had two-thirds on the same topic,” continued Enns.
If the balanced budget campaign were to proceed, the next safeguard is that Congress checks state power by verifying the applications and limiting the amendment topic to what is listed on the applications.
“Safeguard three is that each state limits the power of their delegation on penalty of jail time or fines,” he said, noting that the delegates, the amendment, a recall method and legal penalties are specified, and delegates take an oath.
Next, the convention adopts procedural rules to debate, draft and propose the amendment.
“The majority of the states, that would be 26, must vote to propose the amendment, with one vote per state,” continued Enns.
After the majority proposes an amendment, Congress selects whether it is ratified by state legislatures or by state ratification conventions.
At this point in time, Congress discards any amendments that were not authorized for discussion.
The final safeguard is that 38 states must vote to ratify the amendment for it to pass.
Enns explained that Wyoming first passed a balanced budget application in 1961, which was reaffirmed in 1979. However, in 2009 the state rescinded all convention applications.
“I think that that may have been a wise thing to do to get rid of all of the old ones that no longer reflected the will of the current Wyoming Legislature,” said Enns.
The balanced budget amendment campaign currently has 28 states that have submitted applications, with 11 more applications pending.
“We have resolutions pending in 11 states, including Wyoming. With the help of citizens and the Wyoming legislature, we can add Wyoming to the map,” he continued, noting that a recent polling showed that 85 percent of Wyoming voters were in favor of a balanced budget amendment.
“This year, in 2017, we have the chance to make history,” concluded Enns.
Emilee Gibb is editor of Wyoming Livestock Roundup and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.