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View from around the state: Keep your hands off the US Constitution

— From the Wisconsin State Journal

America doesn’t need an unprecedented and dangerous constitutional convention to balance its federal budget.

It needs real leadership, more courage and cooperation in Washington.

President Donald Trump and the Republican-run Congress, for example, should be able to simplify the tax code without adding $1 trillion or more to the nation’s $20 trillion of debt.

They should be able to slow spending increases on entitlements and the military without a constitutional requirement to do so.

They should be able to pay for basic government services, such as roads, by raising fees on motorists for the first time in more than two decades, rather than borrowing to get by.

Those are the kinds of responsible actions it will take to balance the federal budget — not opening up our nation’s most sacred document to the risk of wild revisions.

The Wisconsin Senate should reject Assembly Joint Resolution 21, which seeks a national constitutional convention to pass a balanced budget amendment. The Assembly OK’d the measure in June. (UPDATE: The state Senate approved the resolution Tuesday.)

Proponents of holding such a convention for the first time since 1787 contend it’s the only way to get Washington to live within its means. Interestingly, the proponents of the resolution in Wisconsin are Republicans — the same party that controls Congress and the White House. Don’t Republicans in Wisconsin have faith in their GOP colleagues in Washington to make tough decisions and get the job done? Apparently not.

Nonetheless, a constitutional convention isn’t the answer to America’s serious fiscal problems. If such a requirement were actually enshrined in the U.S. Constitution, it could force huge spending cuts or giant tax increases in the face of wars or recessions.

And that assumes Congress would abide by a balanced budget amendment. More likely, Congress would find clever ways around such a requirement if lawmakers really wanted to keep spending and cutting taxes.

The Wisconsin Senate knows how this works. For years, state leaders have passed budgets that are balanced on paper. But when generally accepted accounting principles are applied, large deficits appear.

Yet the real danger of a constitutional convention is that its delegates — likely state lawmakers from around the country — would stray from their stated goal and push dramatic changes to our democracy and rights.

Allowing state legislators to monkey with the U.S. Constitution and its Bill of Rights could have disastrous results, such as new limits on free speech, or government intrusions on privacy. Wisconsin shouldn’t become the 28th of 34 states needed to prompt a constitutional convention.

AJR 21 would put far too much power in the hands of other states’ politicians to rewrite the Constitution.

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