Powers pushing for balanced federal budget

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By Dwane Wilder

A convention to amend the U.S. Constitution and force Congress to pass a balanced budget may take place as early as next year if enough states get on board.

State Rep. Dennis Powers, who represents Tennessee’s 36th District, said 29 states have already passed resolutions in support of a balanced federal budget amendment. He said resolutions passed by 34 states are necessary to hold the convention, and 38 will be needed to actually ratify an amendment.

“This has been a long process,” said Powers, who will attend a planning convention in Phoenix the week of Sept. 11. “Each state has to pass a resolution to call the convention. There’s never been a convention called for this purpose. The U.S. Constitution has never been amended by a convention like this.”

Powers sponsored a balanced budget amendment resolution three years ago that the Tennessee House of Representatives passed 89-5, the largest margin by any state at the time. State Sen. Brian Kelsey (R-Germantown) filed a companion bill that passed the Tennessee Senate 29-0. Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam signed the resolution on April 15, 2014.

Powers said there is an urgent need for a constitutional convention to force a balanced federal budget and avoid going deeper in debt.

“We’re overspending a trillion dollars every year,” he said. “We have been since our former president was in there.

“We’re not even paying on the principal. All we’re doing is paying the interest, and at some point we’re not even going to pay the interest on the debt.”

Powers said there was a similar push for a convention of states during the 1980s when Ronald Reagan was president, but the federal government was able to balance its budget without intervention.

Powers said a balanced budget amendment would limit the federal government’s amount of spending and would include provisions only for a declaration of war or a natural disaster such as a hurricane or earthquake.

“This has been an ongoing process for about 20 years,” said Powers.

“There’s no reason, other than overspending, that we can’t do this.”

Powers said, aside from the five Democrats that voted against it, the push for a balanced budget amendment has been well received in the Tennessee Legislature.

He is optimistic about the planning convention in Phoenix.

“We’re setting up all the rules for the actual convention,” said Powers.

“We think we’ll get our 34 [states] by next year. So the real convention could be a year from now.”