An Open Letter to the House Taxation and State Affairs Committees: Act Now to Help Rein in Federal Spending!

Dear Leaders and Members of the Committees:

On behalf of National Taxpayers Union’s (NTU’s) 362,000 members nationwide and our 1,300 members in South Dakota, I urge you to support HJR 1003, a Balanced Budget Amendment (BBA) Convention Application introduced by Representative Wick, and HB 1215, the Delegate Limitation Act, proposed by Representative Steele. Both these bills before the Committees would affirm South Dakota’s leadership on the issue of proposing a Balanced Budget Amendment to the U.S. Constitution for ratification. If HJR 1003 passes, South Dakota will join 19 other states in exercising their constitutional prerogative to put our country on the path to fiscal sanity. HB 1215, also referred to as the “No Runaway Convention Act,” will require delegates to the convention to take an oath that they will not vote for an amendment unrelated to the legislative instructions and impose criminal penalties on delegates who violate this oath.

A Balanced Budget Amendment would enshrine in our Constitution a principle that our Founders simply assumed and abided by: the federal government should not spend more than it takes in, absent a specific, genuine emergency. Unfortunately, decades of fiscal mismanagement have proven that Congress as an institution is no longer capable of restraining itself, and that durable constitutional safeguards must have a role in limiting government. Washington has run deficits during 45 of the last 50 years.

Moreover, in the past decade, we’ve seen an unsustainable acceleration in spending driven by such factors as the creation of a new cabinet-level Department of Homeland Security, a Medicare prescription drug benefit, and increased program expansions in defense and education. The picture worsens when accounting for so-called “crisis response” spending – such as the $862 billion “economic stimulus” bill of 2009. For the recently-concluded fiscal year, the Congressional Budget Office projected an annual deficit of $1.1 trillion, roughly the size of the entire accumulated national debt in 1982.

Given this abysmal history, it becomes clear any solution to our spending crisis must come from outside Washington, D.C. Thankfully, the Constitution allows state lawmakers to exercise certain powers to prevent a catastrophe due to federal excesses. As we wrote in “Why You Must Lead the Congress” over two decades ago:

The Founding Fathers had no way of predicting the current irresponsible spending policies of the federal government. Yet although they could not foretell the future, they were men of great wisdom. They did foresee the possibility that Congress might fail the people. It is for that reason that Article V of the U.S. Constitution enables the states to amend the Constitution.

Our members hope you will recognize this fact and pursue the most rational and safe option now by enacting an Article V resolution for a limited convention of the states to propose a Balanced Budget Amendment. That process begins by ensuring both HJR 1003 and HB 1215 have an extensive roster of support in your Committees as well as the entire House of Representatives and the Senate. Please contact us with any questions you may have or information you may require. Above all, however, please do not allow this historic opportunity for reestablishing fiscal responsibility to slip from your grasp; for the sake of current and future generations of taxpayers, the time to act is now.


Lee Schalk
State Government Affairs Manager