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Congress Needs a Balanced Budget Amendment

Senator John Thune

July 1, 2011

South Dakota became the first state in the Union this year to pass a balanced budget. Elected officials and state leaders were forced by South Dakota's Constitution to take a hard look at spending priorities, especially in light of the current challenging fiscal times, and were required to make some tough decisions. Because of these hard, but necessary decisions, future generations will not have to carry our state's debt burden.

Our state is not alone in having a Constitutional requirement to keep the budget balanced. In fact, 49 states in the Union have some type of balanced budget requirement that forces elected officials to be responsible fiscal stewards of taxpayers' hard-earned money.

Unfortunately, Congress has yet to pass a common sense requirement that would force lawmakers to balance the federal budget each year, despite repeated efforts.

I was a Freshman Congressman in the House of Representatives the last time the Senate considered a balanced budget amendment to the Constitution. That amendment fell just one vote short and I cannot help but think how much better our country would be today if we had passed that balanced budget amendment.

Earlier this year, I led a group of my Republican colleagues to help formulate a balanced budget amendment. In the upcoming weeks, we will push for a vote in the Senate on this amendment, which is sponsored by all 47 Republican Senators. This amendment would require the president to submit a budget proposal to Congress that is balanced and does not spend more than 18 percent of the country's Gross Domestic Product. Congress would then be required to approve budget, spending, and tax bills that meet these guidelines. The amendment would also require any tax increase be approved by two-thirds of both chambers of Congress.

I hope that my Democrat colleagues in the Senate will stand with us and vote in favor of this common sense balanced budget amendment. While there are many opportunities for Congress to address our nation's fiscal crisis, including cutting spending, balancing the budget is one of the most obvious solutions.