U.S. Representatives Kurt Schrader, John Carney (DE-AL), Jared Polis (CO-02), Gerry Connolly (VA-11), and Ed Perlmutter (CO-07) today introduced H.J.Res 87, a joint resolution proposing a balanced budget amendment to the Constitution of the United States. The legislation is different from other proposed balanced budget amendments because it protects Social Security and allows for public investments by separating the federal capital and operating budgets. It also provides for extenuating circumstances by allowing outlays to exceed receipts in a time of economic recession, declared war, or imminent national security threat as voted on by Congress.
"In Delaware, we are responsible for balancing our budget each year while managing our obligations as a state. The federal government should not be held to a different standard," said Rep. Carney. "Right now, there's no revenue target and little accountability in the federal budgeting process. A responsible balanced budget amendment will enable us to end out-of-control deficit spending while making essential public investments that make sense to finance over time, like military aircraft, infrastructure, facilities, and intellectual property. This amendment will also protect Social Security and ensure that we can act quickly in times of war or economic recession."
"Government should live within its means, and more and more I doubt that Congress will accomplish a balanced budget without a constitutional requirement like most states already have," said Rep. Polis. "This balanced budget amendment is a fair and sensible approach to restoring fiscal responsibility and reversing the massive deficits caused by Bush administration policies. It provides the flexibility the government needs to address economic downturns and emergencies, protects Social Security, which is not the cause of our deficit, and puts America back on course to a balanced budget."
"This is a fiscally responsible approach that provides real but flexible boundaries and is similar to the laws of many state and local governments, including the Commonwealth of Virginia," Rep. Connolly said. "By separating the federal government's annual operating budget from long-term investments in infrastructure, this amendment would require Congress to exert fiscal discipline and give us the flexibility to rebuild our crumbling roads, bridges, and transit systems."
"This amendment balances the budget without having our seniors bear the burden alone," said Rep. Perlmutter.
"This amendment adds a more measured proposal to the debate on a balanced budget amendment," said Rep. Schrader. "Any balanced budget amendment sent to the states to be ratified must provide for responsible policies that protect Social Security and promote economic prosperity. This amendment does both."
The proposed amendment separates the federal capital and operating budget, requiring only the operating budget be balanced to ensure that the federal government can continue to pay for investments that are typically financed over the long-term, including bridges, military planes, and technology research. Many states have balanced budget amendments with the capital versus operating budget distinction. The Office of Management and Budget defines federal capital assets as "land, structures, equipment, intellectual property, and information technology having an estimated useful life of two years or more."
The proposed amendment also protects Social Security by preventing the federal government from using Social Security revenue for shortfalls elsewhere in the budget.
In case of an economic recession, declared war, or an imminent national security threat as voted on by Congress, the proposed amendment allows outlays to exceed receipts. Any bill to increase revenue would require a majority vote in both houses of Congress.