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October 2016 Policy Study, Number 16-3


How To Restore Federal Fiscal Sanity: The State Legislatures Hold The Key





We offer this information for use by State Legislators and citizens who are concerned about our nation’s future.  Originally published on 11 August 1997, the problems laid out by Mr. Stanley have only gotten worse in the last twenty years (in spite of the arrival of a Republican majority in the United States House of Representatives through Newt Gingrich’s “Contract With America,” which resulted in balanced budgets in 1998, 1999, 2000, and 2001), and the analysis he offers remains as valid today as when he wrote it. 


We are republishing this piece because the work has long been out of print and was never available in an easily transmitted electronic format.  The section on why we need not fear a “run-away convention” is especially helpful given the more recent efforts by Governor Greg Abbott of Texas, The Convention of the States Project, John Cogswell of Colorado, and many others to call a limited or unlimited convention under the provisions of Article V to propose U.S. Constitutional Amendments to rein in the feds.


Rather than interject editorial comments throughout the piece, a few updates will be noted here and the remainder of the analysis will be reprinted as Mr. Stanley originally wrote it:

  1.  The current federal debt is about $19.5 trillion, up from the $5 trillion Stanley cited.

  2. The total federal debt is about $210 trillion, up from the $18 trillion he cited.

  3. The 32 states (of 34 needed) which have adopted resolutions calling for a limited convention under Article V to propose a Balanced Budget Constitutional Amendment include Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, Colorado, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Louisiana, Maryland, Mississippi, Missouri, Nebraska, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Mexico, North Carolina, North Dakota, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Virginia, and Wyoming.  As noted herein, Alabama, Florida, and Louisiana have rescinded their calls, and one of the two houses of the bi-cameral Nevada legislature has also changed its position, so if additional states pass resolutions, there may be litigation to clarify the status of the original calls in these four states.

NATIONAL TAXPAYERS UNION (NTU), in cooperation with many other organizations and concerned citizens, is leading the campaign for a Balanced Budget Amendment (BBA) to the U.S. Constitution.  NTU is a non-profit, non-partisan organization with more than 300,000 members.


David M. Stanley served for 12 years in the Iowa Legislature; he was House Ways & Means Chairman and Senate Majority Leader.  He was a parent, grandparent, lawyer, citizen activist, and investment company manager living in Muscatine, Iowa, until his death on 26 August 2015.  He served as an unpaid volunteer and leader in many charitable, civic, and religious organizations.




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