State House urges Congress of U.S. to balance budget

Colorado may join a group of states that have called on Congress to pass a balanced budget amendment or convene a constitutional convention to draft such an amendment.

The Colorado House approved a nonbinding resolution Monday calling for that convention, saying an amendment is needed to prevent the nation’s $14 trillion debt from continuing to get out of hand.

Rep. Ed Casso, D-Commerce City, who introduced the measure with Republican lawmakers, said a high national debt places too great a burden on future generations, would cause the nation’s credit rating to plummet and could jeopardize the nation’s ability to have a voice in world events.

Coincidentally, the national credit-rating agency Standards & Poor’s lowered the nation’s long-term debt outlook Monday from stable to negative, saying that there was “material risk” that federal lawmakers may not reach an agreement on addressing the nation’s long-term budget problems.

To prevent that, a bipartisan group of Colorado lawmakers wants Congress to convene a convention to draft a balanced budget amendment to the U.S. Constitution, but one that also includes a restraint on federal spending to prevent taxes from being raised to balancing that budget.

“Our country cannot spend and borrow its way to prosperity,” said state Rep. Larry Liston, R-Colorado Springs. “You look at what’s going on in Portugal and in Greece and Ireland and other foreign countries that have leveraged themselves to the hilt. It’s devastated their economies.”

The Colorado resolution, which heads to the Senate for another vote, is related to but not connected to a national effort to get Congress to approve an amendment by the end of the year, or convene a convention if that doesn’t happen.

The U.S. House and Senate are considering numerous proposals for a balanced budget amendment, including one introduced by Colorado U.S. Sen. Mark Udall.

Amending the U.S. Constitution requires a two-thirds vote in each chamber, and ratification by two-thirds of the states.

But a convention also can be convened if 34 states call on Congress to form such a panel. To date, 20 states have done so, Casso said.

Ken Klukowski, a Washington, D.C.-based constitutional attorney who is working with a national group to pass a balanced budget amendment, said that a convention could achieve that goal, but that no one is quite sure how it would be formed or operate.

That’s because such a thing hasn’t happened since the Constitution was drafted in 1789, he said.


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