Bobby Jindal Calls For A Balanced Budget Amendment

Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal has lent his voice to an ever-growing group of conservative policymakers who are calling for a national convention to add a balanced-budget amendment to the U.S. Constitution.

During a speech Thursday to the Texas Public Policy Orientation in Austin, Jindal said he would urge the Louisiana Legislature to sign on to the national effort to force a discussion on a federal balanced-buget amendment, according a report in The Austin American-Statesman. The balanced budget issue has been a stalwart of national conservative politics for several presidential election cycles.

Under Article V of the U.S. Constitution, state lawmakers can trigger a national convention to consider amendments to the document if two-thirds, or 34, of state Legislatures agree on the specific issue to be considered. The provision has never been successful, however, with all the current amendments having been proposed and approved in the traditional method, originating in Congress.

Some lawmakers expressed surprise at Jindal’s remarks, criticizing what they characterized as systematic violations of Louisiana’s own balanced budget requirement, and noting the governor’s absence during a similar push for a federal convention in 2010.

According to The Statesman, the governor said he would like the U.S. Constitution amended to require a supermajority to approve tax hikes as well as to approve any government spending growth that outweighs private sector growth. The governor also touted Louisiana’s balanced budget requirement, as he has in the past, as a model for fiscal responsibility.

Calls for such a convention have been growing in recent years as voters and state lawmakers become increasingly critical of Congress’ handling of the country’s fiscal matters. Not including Louisiana, at least 20 state legislatures are already on board in calling for the convention.

Jindal’s remarks Thursday struck a chord with at least one state lawmaker, however, who questioned setting up Louisiana’s balanced budget requirement as a prototype for one on the federal level.

“It is interesting that (Jindal) referenced Louisiana as a state with a constitutional requirement for a balanced budget when in practice we have regularly violated the (state) Constitution in our yearly budgets,” said state Rep. Brett Geymann, R-Lake Charles.

Geymann and his fellow Fiscal Hawks, a group of House Republicans who have butted heads with the governor on the use of budgetary practices such as using one-time money to fill funding gaps, wrestled with Jindal over these issues during the 2013 session.

In response, Jindal spokesman Kyle Plotkin said the governor has lived up to the state Constitution’s requirements, passing “a balanced budget every year without raising taxes.”

All told, Geymann wasn’t without praise for the requirement’s intentions or the need for such fiscal restraint on the federal level.

“The constitutional requirements (in Louisiana) have certainly limited fiscal irresponsibility,” Geymann said.

This isn’t the first time the idea of pushing for a constitutional convention has been raised in Louisiana. The state House voted 69-21 in 2010 in favor of such a move, but the Senate failed to bring it up for a vote.

State Rep. Nick Lorusso, R-New Orleans, said he would introduce a resolution during the session that starts in March to call for a convention. But his proposal will be broader than his 2010 resolution that failed to pass muster in the Senate.

Reading from a draft of the resolution, which is not yet available online, Lorusso said it will call for a federal convention that seeks to “impose fiscal restraints on the federal government (and) limit the power and jurisdiction of the federal government.

The resolution will also encourage an amendment to enact term limits for member of Congress, Lorusso said, another of the proposals Jindal said he supported in his Thursday speech. Louisiana instituted term limits for state lawmakers in 1995.

But Lorusso expressed surprise at Jindal’s remarks in Austin, saying he and his House colleagues “tried to get the governor on board in 2010 but we couldn’t.”

“We tried in 2010 and couldn’t even get a meeting (with the governor) on the topic,” Lorusso said Friday, adding he was “glad” Jindal now seemed amenable to the idea. He said he was not aware of the governor’s support, and did not consult with him, ahead of drafting the resolution.

Plotkin noted the governor has long been in supporter of such a requirement on the federal level, even writing about the need for a balanced-budget amendment in his 2010 book “Leadership and Crisis.”

Plotkin added the 2010 session was an especially busy one for Jindal, as he spent most of his time outside of Baton Rouge, responding to the BP-Deepwater Horizon oil spill.
“The governor spent his days along the coast,” Plotkin said, noting this might be why he could not sit down with Lorusso. “He was not in the Capitol at all for the overwhelming majority of session.”

Lorusso is working on the resolution along with state Reps. Kirk Talbot, R-River Ridge, Chris Broadwater, R-Hammond and Ray Garofalo, R-Chalmette.

During his Thursday speech, The Statesman reported Jindal also called for paying members of the U.S. Congress on a per diem basis and turning the job into a part-time gig, as is the case in Louisiana. The majority of the governor’s speech was dedicated to discussing his ongoing legal battle with the U.S. Department of Justice over school vouchers.

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