Oklahoma legislators back federal balanced budget amendment, conservative analyst calls for strict provisions

 A group of Republican state legislators in Oklahoma has said that if Congress sends such a federal balanced budget amendment measure to the states, they will press for rapid passage of the constitutional measure. The executive vice president of Oklahoma’s leading conservative think tank immediately applauded the effort, but in interviews last week cautioned that any proposed amendment must have sufficient strength to achieve the desired goal.

As debate over the national debt ceiling intensified two weeks ago, a group of 42 members of the Oklahoma Legislature issued a statement of support for a federal amendment. By last Friday, 64 members had declared they would back the measure.

Supporters include Speaker of the House Kris Steele of Shawnee, Speaker Pro Tem Jeff Hickman of Dacoma, and Majority Floor Leader Dan Sullivan of Tulsa. House Rules Committee Chairman Gary Banz of Midwest City also signed the letter of support. He would be a key legislator in developing and advancing any ratification resolution in the next legislative session.

Today, after reviewing S. 365, the federal resolution increasing the debt limit and averting a U.S. government default, Joel Kintsel of the Oklahoma Council of Public Affairs (OCPA) had broadly supportive comments, with cautionary words concerning the substance of any possible federal amendment.

Kintsel told CapitolBeatOK, “As amended, sections 201 and 202 of S. 365 require the House and Senate to vote on a ‘Joint resolution proposing a balanced budget amendment to the Constitution of the United States.’ Under the requirements of S. 365, consideration of the joint resolution must occur between October 1, 2011 and December 31, 2011.

“The interesting thing is that there is absolutely no definition of what characteristics must be included in the required joint resolution to qualify it as a balanced budget amendment. If you view the glass as half empty, the joint resolution could conceivably be reported out of Congress without a true balanced budget requirement. Viewed half full, the anticipated joint resolution presents an opportunity to create a balanced budget amendment with better features than the version referenced in the legislation passed out of the House the other day and killed in the Senate.”

The latter comment referenced a U.S. House version of the debt limit hike that did not survive last week’s maneuvering between the two chambers of Congress, and the two political parties.

Concerning the new measure headed to the president this afternoon, Kintsel continued, “Passage of S. 365 provides an opportunity to include a constitutional reserve fund requirement which is an additional, important characteristic. While multiple methods are used by the States to successfully operate a constitutional reserve fund, inclusion of such a feature would prevent Congress from immediately spending every penny collected thus allowing significant mitigation of the inevitable downturns in revenue.

“My hope is that Oklahoma’s Congressional delegation will participate directly in crafting the balanced budget amendment and will support inclusion of a constitutional reserve fund requirement.”

Every member of the state’s U.S. House delegation – four Republicans Tom Cole of Norman, John Sullivan of Tulsa, Frank Lucas of Cherokee and Democrat Dan Boren of Muskogee – supported the debt limit increase when it passed the lower chamber yesterday. In the U.S. Senate vote, both James Inhofe of Tulsa and Tom Coburn of Muskogee opposed the measure.

In his reflections, Kintsel applauded the 64 state legislators who have now advocated passage of a federal balanced budget amendment. He said, “Without question, such an overwhelming response shows that Oklahomans want to put a stop to out-of-control spending in Washington, D.C. and want Congress to live within the taxpayers’ means.

“Our present spending trajectory is too steep and doomed to stall. The looming crash will be of historic proportions and will cause not only Americans, but the entire world to suffer. I commend the proactive stance of the Oklahoma legislators who signed this letter. If Congress does pass a legitimate, balanced budget amendment, Oklahoma should be the first state to ratify the proposed amendment.”

The earlier letter from members of the Legislature stated, “If the Balanced Budget Amendment is approved by Congress, we are committed to supporting and working for ratification in Oklahoma. We are confident that if given the opportunity, Oklahoma will be one of the first states to ratify the Balanced Budget Amendment.”

Besides top House leaders, other representatives on the joint letter include (partial listing) John Bennett of Sallisaw, David Brumbaugh of Broken Arrow, Dennis Casey of Morrison, Josh Cockroft of McLoud, Marian Cooksey of Edmond, David Derby of Owasso, George Faught of Muskogee, Randy Grau of Edmond, Sally Kern of Oklahoma City, Charles Key of Oklahoma City, Scott Martin of Norman, Steve Martin of Bartlesville, Mark McCullough of Sapulpa, Randy McDaniel of Oklahoma City, Lewis Moore of Arcadia, Glen Mulready of Tulsa, Jason Murphey of Guthrie, Jason Nelson of Oklahoma City, Tom Newell of Seminole, Pat Ownbey of Ardmore, Ron Peters of Tulsa, Phil Richardson of Minco, Mike Sanders of Kingfisher, Colby Schwartz of Yukon, Seneca Scott of Tulsa, T.W. Shannon of Lawton, Randy Terrill of Oklahoma City, Todd Thomsen of Ada, Steve Vaughn of Ponca City, Paul Wesselhoft of Oklahoma City and Harold Wright of Weatherford.

The letter was also signed by state Sens. Josh Brecheen of Coalgate, Bill Brown, Greg Treat of Edmond, Jim Halligan of Stillwater, David Holt of Oklahoma City, Clark Jolley of Edmond and Steve Russell of Oklahoma City.