PHOENIX From the Goldwater Institute, the fertile frontal lobe of the conservative movement's brain, comes an innovative idea that is gaining traction in Alaska, Arizona and Georgia, and its advocates may bring it to at least 35 other states' legislatures. It would use the Constitution's Article V to move the nation back toward the limited government the Constitution's Framers thought their document guaranteed.
The Compact for America is the innovation of the Goldwater Institute's Nick Dranias, who proposes a constitutional convention carefully called under Article V to enact a balanced-budget amendment written precisely enough to preclude evasion by the political class. This class has powerful and permanent incentives for deficit spending, which delivers immediate benefits to constituents while deferring a significant portion of the benefits' costs. Here's what the compact's amendment would stipulate:
Total federal government outlays shall not exceed receipts unless the excess of outlays is financed exclusively by debt which initially shall be authorized to be 105 percent of outstanding debt on the date the amendment is ratified. Congress may increase the authorized debt only if a majority of state legislatures approve an unconditional, single-subject measure proposing the amount of such increase. Whenever outstanding debt exceeds 98 percent of the set limit, the president shall designate for impoundment specific expenditures sufficient to keep debt below the authorized level. The impoundment shall occur in 30 days unless Congress designates an alternative impoundment of the same or greater amount. Any bill for a new or increased general revenue tax shall require a two-thirds vote of both houses of Congress except for a bill that reduces or eliminates an existing tax exemption, deduction or credit, or that "provides for a new end user sales tax which would completely replace every existing income tax levied by" the U.S. government.