House, Senate leaders demand balanced federal budgetby Dara Kam | March 1st, 2010
After taking billions of dollars in federal economic stimulus money to balance the state budget last year, Senate President Jeff Atwater and House Speaker Larry Cretul along with other GOP lawmakers are demanding that the federal government balance its budget to put an end to the escalating federal deficit now surpassing $12 trillion.
“Unless something is done with Washington’s irresponsible fiscal behavior, Florida’s economy will drown in debt,” Atwater, R-North Palm Beach, said at a press conference this morning.
Atwater and his cadre want the feds to balance the nation’s budget as Florida lawmakers are constitutionally required to do in the Sunshine State.
But that didn’t stop the legislature under Atwater and Cretul from accepting at least $12 billion in federal stimulus money – more than $3 billion used to balance this year’s Florida budget and nearly another $6 billion plugged into next year’s. That money helped add to the nation’s rising debt.
“It’s a gaping inconsistency to take that money happily to fill giant holes in our budget and then turn around and criticize the very people who gave you the cash,” said Rep. Keith Fitzgerald, D-Sarasota.
Sen. Joe Negron, R-Stuart, is sponsoring a joint resolution that, if passed by two-thirds of the Florida legislature, would have the state joining 19 other states asking Congress to convene an amendments convention to propose a constitutional amendment requiring the balanced budget and limit federal lawmakers’ ability to pass mandated spending down to the states.
But Florida lawmakers have done the same thing to local governments over the past decade, forcing them to take up a large share of education spending by passing down mandates and making counties pick up the tab for other items.
Congress would have to call the amendments convention if 34 states make the request. Passage of the constitutional amendment would require ratification by three-fourths, or 38, of the states.