This is the third in a series of six questions The York Dispatch is posing to candidates for the 4th Congressional District. York County voters will select Democratic and Republican nominees in the April 24 primary election. Candidates were asked to respond to the questions in 150 words or less.
Question: Do you favor a balanced budget amendment to the U.S. Constitution. Why or why not?
Chris Reilly (R): Absolutely. If elected, a balanced budget amendment will be one of my top legis´lative priori´ties.
Scott Perry (R): A balanced budget amendment to the Constitution is essential to our country's future, and I would support it whole-heartedly. It works in Pennsylvania, and it will work in Washington. In February, President Obama proposed the largest budget in our nation's history, including nearly $2 trillion in new taxes. He promised to cut the deficit in half, but instead it had grown by 190 percent since 2008. You need only to look to Greece and other European countries to see this is simply unsustainable. As a state representative, I fought to bring fiscal discipline to Harrisburg. As your congressman, I will fight to do the same in D.C., and a balanced budget amendment will be an important part of that battle.
Sean Summers (R): Yes. My family balances its budget each and every month, so there is no reason that the federal government cannot do the same. History has proven that our politicians cannot help themselves if given the opportunity to continue to spend and mortgage our children's future. If all of us can live within our means, so can the government.
Mark Swomley (R): Yes, I favor a balanced budget amendment to the Constitution. It has become all too apparent that our government is not capable of keeping itself in check fiscally without direct constitutional requirements. Our Congress has not been able to pass a budget for over three years, and our executive branch continues to allocate bailout and stimulus money without regard for the attendant consequences.
Kevin Downs (R): I 100 percent support a balanced budget amendment. However, I would go one step further. I would like the amendment to be tied to the pay of the Senate, Congress and president. If these two bodies of government cannot produce a balanced budget, then they should not be paid their salaries. Give the government a deadline, and if that deadline is not met, they should not be paid until a balanced budget has passed. You would never again have a Congress/president not pass a budget. It is shocking that this administration has been given a "pass" for not meeting their obligation to the citizens of the United States. How do you control spending if a benchmark is not set? Abraham Lincoln said, "If once you forfeit the confidence of your fellow-citizens, you can never regain their respect and esteem." I will help regain that trust and respect if given the chance.
Eric Martin (R): I favor a balanced budget amendment to the Constitution. I support it because government needs to live within the limits set forth in the U.S. Constitution. The national debt is nearly 100 percent of our country's total yearly output. A balanced budget amendment could have helped to force Congress into cuts before our debt load became unmanageable. With our current reprehensible debt load, Congress should use a balanced budget amendment to gradually bring down the country's debt as a percentage of gross domestic product until we have no debt. Then Congress should ratify a zero debt amendment as Thomas Jefferson proposed. A zero debt amendment would force the United States to raise taxes instead of issuing debt to obtain more revenue, even in times of war. Only amending the Constitution again would allow more funds to be raised any way other than raising taxes.
Ted Waga (R): I do favor a balanced budget amendment, but I'm not sure that it would pass. Twice it has been tried, and twice it was not passed. It seems that Washington does not want to limit its spending and will therefore not pass this amendment. Simply refusing to raise the debt ceiling will have the same effect as a balanced budget amendment. If you cannot go further into debt, then you must balance the budget. And actually passing a budget for the first time in over three years will be key, as well.
Harry Perkinson (D): I am not in favor of a balanced budget amendment to the U.S. Constitution. One of the greatest strengths that we have is the ability of our federal government to respond to unexpected natural or geopolitical crises without being hamstrung by a balanced budget amendment. States that have balanced budget provisions in their constitutions can always turn to the federal government in times of dire hardship; the United States only has itself to turn to in time of need. We need to send responsible citizen legislators to Congress who realize that in good economic times, government spending should be cut and a budget surplus created, and when we are in times of recession, government spending should be expanded and a deficit run. If we follow this time-tested rule, we will see a stronger economy in general and preserve our ability to respond to crisis or opportunity.
Ken Lee (D): Though the present deficit and debt need to be addressed, I do not favor a balanced budget amendment to the U.S. Constitution. It might sound attractive, at first, as a viable solution until the unintended consequences are examined. First, there are times when debt and deficits must be incurred for the good of the country without over-burdening people, especially the middle class, with increased taxes and cutting necessary governmental services. Second, and most importantly, it is the job of our elected officials to balance the budget. Third, a balance budget amendment would not provide the flexibility required in a modern, complex society or economic system.