Mar 10 2011

ARGUS LEADER: Balanced budget push renewed in D.C.

Kristi Noem co-sponsors Constitutional amendment

WASHINGTON - Sixteen years after Congress nearly passed a balanced-budget amendment to the U.S. Constitution, the issue is getting new life from House Republicans, including Kristi Noem.

The South Dakota lawmaker announced Thursday that she will be one of more than 200 House members who plan to reintroduce the measure. It would mark the first serious attempt by Congress to tackle the issue since 1995, when the House passed a similar amendment and the Senate was one vote shy of the two-thirds majority needed to send the issue to the states for ratification.

The legislatures of 38 states would have to approve a constitutional amendment for it to take effect.

Passage of a balanced-budget amendment in Congress remains a long shot. The Senate voted last week to reject a nonbinding "sense of the Senate" resolution to support such an amendment. It died 58-40, two votes short of the 60 it would take to approve the balanced-budget measure. Sen. John Thune, R-S.D., voted for it, while Sen. Tim Johnson, D-S.D., voted against it.

But spending - and its effect on the growing national debt - has become the top issue on the congressional agenda.

"We need a plan and a way out to be much more responsible with our taxpayer dollars in this country," Noem said Thursday. "And when you talk about the kind of debt that we're accumulating, we certainly don't have that right now."

The national debt recently surpassed $14.2 trillion, or about $46,000 for every U.S. resident.

Johnson said he is worried about how large-scale cuts could hurt a state such as South Dakota, which perennially receives a good deal more in federal aid than its resident pay in federal taxes.

He voted against a House-approved 2011 spending bill Wednesday that would have cut $60 billion from 2010 spending levels, in part because of the harm he said it would inflict on his home state through job losses and program reductions.

Noem told reporters she wouldn't consider raising taxes to balance the budget. She also said she would cut spending while working to protect South Dakota's priorities.

"The only thing that is good enough for our children and the future prosperity of this country is for us to get our fiscal house in order and to embrace responsible budgets," he said. "We cannot continue to spend money we don't have."

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