LIMA, Ohio — Now that Ohio has become the 20th state to join the effort to enact a federal balanced budget amendment, Gov. John Kasich on Monday pledged to work to convince other Republican and Democratic governors to do the same.
With a digital national debt clock at $17.2 trillion and ticking behind him, the GOP governor said at Rhodes State College in Lima that this will be different from similar efforts that ultimately fizzled.
A sign on the stage read, “Ohio can do it. Why can’t Washington?”
“Had we not had a state balanced budget requirement, I don’t believe we would have balanced the budget,” he said. “It forced us to abide by the law, and it forced us to make the decisions that needed to be made to get our budget balanced. And by the way, today we run a $1.4 billion surplus.”
The Ohio General Assembly, with bipartisan support, last week passed Senate Joint Resolution 5 calling for Congress to directly propose a balanced budget amendment for states to ratify or convene a constitutional convention to do it. Ohio neighbors Indiana and Pennsylvania are among the 19 other states to have done the same. At least 14 more must sign on before the resolutions will have any teeth. No constitutional convention has been held in the United States since 1787.
Mr. Kasich joined Senate President Keith Faber (R., Celina), who sponsored the resolution, and House Speaker Bill Batchelder (R., Medina) in signing letters to accompany copies of the resolution to Congress and the White House. They were joined by U.S. Rep. Steve Stivers (R., Columbus) and state Rep. Matt Huffman (R., Lima), who soon will join legislators from other states to figure out how to get more states to get on board.
“It’s really easy to be number 20,” said Larry Sabato, director of the Center for Politics at the University of Virginia and author of A More Perfect Constitution: Why the Constitution Must Be Revised: Ideas to Inspire a New Generation.
“It’s very difficult to be number 34,” he said. “It’s like the last senator to vote for something controversial. You’re held responsible. …It’s not impossible, but I’ll believe it when I see it.”
The proposed amendment would, except in cases of a national emergency, require the federal government to spend no more money than it takes in.
“I don’t think a convention would be anything that would be destructive, because 38 states would have to ratify whatever we do,” Mr. Kasich said. “But here’s what I will tell you: You get close to 34, and all of a sudden, Stivers will have a lot of friends in Washington who will want to balance a budget. They’ll want to avoid a convention.”
Ohio’s resolution states that any delegates sent to such a convention from Ohio would be forbidden from voting on any issue beyond this one.
Mr. Sabato said such a prohibition is meaningless.
“There’s almost no way to limit a constitutional convention to this one subject. Not a chance,” he said. “Once it comes to order, it is really fully empowered to cover anything it wants.”
Mr. Kasich declined to suggest areas where the federal budget could be cut.
“I don’t intend to go back to Washington, so you’ll have to leave that to Stivers,” he said, belying conjecture that he’s got his sights set on the White House in 2016.
He also said he believed the federal government could balance the budget and still play billions to states like Ohio that have expanded Medicaid coverage eligibility under the federal Affordable Care Act.
Although predominantly pushed by Republicans, the resolution drew some support from Democrats. It passed by a vote of 28-4 on its final pass through the Senate and 63-30 in the House.
Contact Jim Provance at: email@example.com or 614-221-0496.
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