Senate Review

 

October 1, 2020

Last session, the Oklahoma legislature once again expressed its dismay at Congress' out of control spending. The state legislature filed a joint resolution asking Congress to balance the federal budget just as we balance the state budget each year.

In economic terms, asking for a balanced budget means the federal government couldn't spend more money in a fiscal year than had been collected in taxes. This is how Oklahoma's government works. We can only spend what is available. 

This was the fourth time in my tenure a resolution has been brought to the Senate Floor asking Congress to keep expenditures within tax collections.

In 2016, the Oklahoma legislature became the 29th state calling for an Article V National Convention of the States for the purpose of proposing a Balanced Budget Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. In March 2020, we approved SJR 41 again calling for a National Convention of the States to enact a Budget Balanced Amendment but with the shortened session, it wasn't heard in the House. 


Fifteen states have already passed a resolution. In 7 states, one chamber has approved the resolution but not the other. Three of those states are among 14 working this year to pass an Article V Convention resolution. Once two-thirds of the states (34) pass the resolution, the convention can be called.

When the U.S. spends more than is collected through taxes during a fiscal year (Oct. 1-Sept. 30) a "budget deficit" occurs. In recent years, the U.S. has run budget deficits nearing $1 trillion annually. It was a dangerous trend before the pandemic. Now that number has grown exponentially as the federal government tries to keep the nation's economy afloat. 

Federal taxes collected in 2019 were $3.5 trillion. The US spent $4.4 trillion in 2019. 

Since March 2020, as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, it's estimated the U.S. has accumulated an additional $3.2 trillion above the $1 trillion deficit hole to add to the FY'20 budget deficit. This was done by enacting:

1) coronavirus Preparedness and Response Supplemental Appropriations Act on 3/6/20;

2) Families First coronavirus Response Act on 3/8/20;

3) coronavirus Act, Relief and Economic Security Act on 3/27/20; and,

4) Paycheck Protection Program and Health Care Enhancement Act on 4/24/20.

According to various online sources, the national debt is approaching $27 trillion. An analogy that has been used by economists is the budget deficit is the trees and the national debt is the forest. Another illustrative comparison is the total national debt is 102.4% of the total U.S. Gross Domestic Product (GDP). The GDP is the value of the goods and services produced in our nation - a comprehensive measure of U.S. economic activity.


While Oklahoma voters enacted a Balanced Budget Amendment in 1941 in the Oklahoma Constitution, the legislature still enacted a 2020 budget that allows transportation to borrow money through bonds. Oklahoma has allowed borrowing money several times in the last eight years to keep the state operational.

While it would be great if the federal government lived within its means, I just don't think it's plausible at this point. Our country has overspent for so long that enacting a Balanced Budget would most likely tank Social Security, Medicaid and Medicare but perhaps there is enough unnecessary spending in other areas to balance the federal budget. Congress definitely needs to be more fiscally responsible with our tax dollars and cut out the billions of dollars of waste each year.

However, introducing state resolutions lacks any actual authority on a national level.  They're used just to express the will of the Oklahoma legislature. They have no force of law. 

A National Convention of the States also concerns me as the George Washingtons, James Madisons, George Masons and James Wilsons wouldn't be there. Many radicals would come forward. Only the electoral college and single member districts have saved our fundamental freedoms.


A Memorial and a Constitutional Convention are two entirely different concepts of constitutional change. If the Oklahoma Legislature is serious about calling an Article V Convention, a Memorial must be enacted to request Oklahoma's congressional delegation to address the issue.  We'll discuss these and the U.S. debt next week.

If you have any questions or I can be of any assistance, please don't hesitate to contact me at [email protected] or call me at (405) 521-5539.

 

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