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Weekly Column: Balancing our Budgets

In my time spent working as State Senate Majority Leader and Governor of South Dakota, balancing the state budget was part of my job. Our state laws require us to balance our books each year, so we found ways to do more with less and grow our economy without Overspending – just as has always been done in South Dakota. Despite sometimes having to make tough decisions, in the end we are better off for it. I’m proud of our record of balancing the books in South Dakota for 125 years.

At the federal level, the idea of balancing a budget is seemingly a foreign concept. Our current national debt is more than $18 trillion, and shows no signs of slowing down. A recent report by the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office (CBO) estimated our annual federal deficit will be half-a-trillion dollars in 2015, and again in 2016. That comes off the heels of several years of $1 trillion annual deficits under President Obama’s watch, which CBO projects will return within a decade. This is unsustainable and poses a threat to our entire economic system.

One action we can take to combat our debt problem is to pass a Balanced Budget Amendment that would force the federal government to balance its books. It simply means that Washington cannot spend more than they’ve taken in. I’ve already agreed to cosponsor balanced budget legislation in the Senate and hopefully it will receive widespread, bipartisan support among my colleagues.

Taking significant steps to rein in spending, as the Balanced Budget Amendment would do, would send a strong signal to job creators that we are serious about growing our economy for the long haul. It would give them the confidence to invest and hire again.

The South Dakota State House just passed legislation calling for a convention to amend the U.S. Constitution to require a balanced federal budget. If it is approved by the Senate and signed by the Governor, South Dakota would join 24 other states calling for such an amendment. Thirty eight states are required by law to approve an amendment to the Constitution. It is unfortunate that Washington’s irresponsibility is forcing these actions.

When I talk to South Dakotans, they always ask me why Washington is so broken, and the fact is that the culture of spending in this country has gotten out of hand. It is extremely frustrating to me, and I will support every effort to responsibly rein in spending. Continuing to kick the can down the road only exacerbates the problem for future generations. Congress must begin its work on a long-term solution to balancing our books. Passing a Balanced Budget Amendment to the Constitution is a good place to start.