Texas Senate calls for balanced budget amendment in U.S. Constitution

AUSTIN — The Senate, taking a break from Texas’ own budget problems, Wednesday passed a joint resolution calling on Congress to stop deficit spending and approve a new amendment to the U.S. Constitution requiring a balanced federal budget.

Under the resolution, approved 24-7, Congress will first be asked, and then if nothing happens, the Senate wants a constitutional convention to be called solely to pass a balanced budget amendment.

Two-thirds of the states — at least 34 — would have to agree before a constitutional convention could be convened. There has never been a constitutional convention called by the states, though many — including Texas — have petitioned for one.

In at least two previous sessions, the Texas Legislature passed similar resolutions, which were generally ignored by Democrats and Republicans in Congress.

But supporters hope the idea will get some traction this time. Gov. Rick Perry has already given the issue “emergency” status, meaning it can be considered in the first 60 days of the legislative session without suspending regular rules of both houses.

All current amendments to the U.S. Constitution were approved through bills that passed Congress and then were approved by state legislatures.

“Now, more than ever, a balanced budget amendment is needed. Federal spending is out of control, and Congress has been unwilling to stop the trend on its own,” said state Sen. Florence Shapiro, R-Plano, citing current projections that the national deficit this year will be $1.5 trillion.

“States are experiencing one of the worst budget crises in decades, as we very well know. Texas is working tirelessly to deal with this budget crisis and it is critical for the federal government to do the same.”

State lawmakers are trying to draft a budget that will be billions of dollars under current projected needs for schools, social services and various state programs.

Sen. Steve Ogden, R-Bryan, said he has conferred with several Texas congressmen about a balanced budget amendment — and he mostly got “lip service” about the idea.

“Congress is incapable of addressing this issue,” he said, contending that high oil prices and other economic problems are directly linked to the federal deficit.

Some Democrats warned that if a constitutional convention is convened, it could be opened up to other proposals that the Texas Legislature does not support.

“It could turn into Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus,” said Sen. Mario Gallegos, D-Galena Park.

But Ogden, Shapiro and other Republican sponsors of the measure said Texas’ declaration for support of the convention would be rescinded if the delegates delved into other matters besides a federal balanced budget.

Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst applauded the action, saying that even though lawmakers previously passed similar resolutions, a balanced budget amendment is needed now more than at any previous time.

“Our financial situation is much worse today,” said Dewhurst, voicing his belief that other states will follow Texas’ lead in pushing for a constitutional amendment.

from DallasNews.com


Austin Bureau


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