Restoring financial responsibility

Congress came within a whisker of making history back in the spring of 1995. The House of Representatives passed an amendment to the Constitution that would have required a balanced federal budget, only to fail in the Senate – by just one vote. It was a painful loss to everyone who cares about fiscal responsibility.

If a Balanced Budget Amendment had become law then, we wouldn’t be straddled with a $14.3 trillion national debt today. And that debt keeps growing bigger every month, too. Without a mechanism in place to slam on the brakes, Washington keeps on spending like a runaway freight train. It has reached the point now where unless decisive action is taken at this moment, America’s fiscal future is in jeopardy.

Sixteen years later, we have another chance to get it right. As a part of the ongoing debt ceiling discussions, the House has recently taken up action on a bill called Cut, Cap, and Balance. I’m a proud co-sponsor of it.

Each month, Granite State families sit down and plan their budget. They calculate how much money they expect to come in, they add up everything they need to spend money on, and they balance the two. Businesses, towns and schools do the same thing. Living on a balanced budget is trademark of personal and professional responsibility. New Hampshire, like 48 other state governments, has a balanced budget requirement. So why should it be any different for the federal government?

It shouldn’t. Washington needs to live by the same basic principles that guide your family’s finances: live within your means, and don’t spend more than you bring in.

Legislation that caps and cuts spending coupled with a Balanced Budget Amendment is necessary because of the staggering federal debt. Currently, 43 cents of every dollar Washington spends is borrowed, so the red ink keeps flowing.

Washington is like a glutton at an all you can eat buffet: it can’t make itself stop spending, even when it doesn’t have the money. We all know what cutting and capping spending would do, but what about a Balanced Budget Amendment? A Balanced Budget Amendment would close the buffet and force your government to eat a single, healthy serving.

Amending our Constitution is serious business. It has only been done 27 times in 223 years. Yet, in the 66 years since World War II, the debt ceiling has been raised 69 times. Clearly, a Balanced Budget Amendment has to be part of the remedy.

Here’s how it would work. The Amendment says total cash outlays for any fiscal year can’t exceed total receipts for the previous fiscal year. Translation: the government can’t spend more in one fiscal year than it brought in during the previous fiscal year. Congress could only increase spending by a super-majority vote of three-fifths of the members in the House and Senate.

On top of that, total spending couldn’t exceed an average of about 20 percent of the country’s economic output.

In short, the coupling of cuts and caps on spending with a Balanced Budget Amendment will restore responsibility to our nation’s finances. And we need it even more today than we did in 1995. A Balanced Budget Amendment would force Congress to finally live within its means and spend responsibly, and would create the fiscal predictability and stability necessary for the creation of new middle class jobs.

Given what we are seeing Washington do with the debt and deficit recently, we can’t wait any longer. Remember, even if Cut, Cap, and Balance passes both the House and the Senate, a Balanced Budget Amendment would still need to be ratified by the states.

So there’s not a minute to lose. Let’s seize this opportunity while we have it.

I look forward to reporting back to you in two weeks on the latest developments in Washington. In the meantime, if I can be of service to you, or if you want to share your thoughts, suggestions or concerns with me, please call either my district office in Manchester at (603) 641-9536 or my Washington office at (202) 225-5456, or contract me through my website at www.Guinta.House.Gov. You can also follow what I’m doing 24/7 on Facebook at www.facebook.com/repfrankguinta and on Twitter at @RepFrankGuinta.

Until next time, please know that I am always on your side and am actively fighting for New Hampshire’s interests in Washington.

U.S. Rep. Frank Guinta represents New Hampshire District 1 in Washington D.C. His column, “Frankly Speaking” can be read in the Merrimack Journal and Bedford Journal twice a month. He can be contacted in Washington at 1223 Longworth HOB, Washington, DC 20515 or by phone at 1-202-225-5456. His New Hampshire office is at 33 Lowell St., Manchester, NH 03101 or 641-9536. Guinta can also be reached via e-mail by visiting https://guinta.house.gov/contact-me. You can also follow what he’s doing 24/7 on Facebook at www.facebook.com/repfrankguinta and on Twitter at @RepFrankGuinta.