U.S. Rep. Steve Stivers (R-Columbus) told the Hilliard Area Chamber of Commerce at an Oct. 18 luncheon that the recent government shutdown has convinced him a balanced-budget amendment is necessary.
Republicans and Democrats reached an agreement to end the shutdown, which began Oct. 1, in order to raise the debt ceiling.
"It was certainly an interesting time," said Stivers, whose 15th Congressional District office is in Hilliard.
Even after all the drama of the past two weeks, it could all play out early next year when the same issues -- a spending bill and the debt ceiling -- are at hand once again, Stivers said.
The solution, Stivers said, is an amendment to the U.S. Constitution that would require the federal government, like 49 of the 50 U.S. states, to have a balanced budget.
"But Washington isn't ready for a balanced budget amendment," Stivers said. "It will have to be pushed on Washington by the states."
Constitutional amendments can be proposed by Congress or proposed at a constitutional convention by two-thirds of the state legislatures. An amendment must be ratified by three-fourths of the states -- 38.
"What is at stake is our kids' future, (and) I think it's time for something radical like a balanced budget amendment," Stivers said. "It would bring fiscal sanity to our country. A balanced budget is the way to do it."
Only Vermont does not require a balanced budget, Stivers said.
Seventeen states so far have approved bills to amend the U.S. Constitution to require a balanced federal budget. Bills have been introduced in Ohio, Michigan and Wisconsin.
"I think Ohio can be the 18th," Stivers said.
Ohio Rep. Stephanie Kunze (R-Hilliard), who attended the chamber luncheon, said Rep. Matt Huffman (R-Lima), House Speaker pro tempore, and Sen. Keith Faber (R-Celina), president of the Senate, have both introduced bills in support of a balanced federal budget.
"It has been introduced by leaders of the House and Senate and is said to have the support of (Gov. John Kasich), so it would seem to have all the support it would need," Kunze said.
Meanwhile, Stivers said, the shutdown was a "slowdown," as he estimated only 17 percent of federal employees were sent home with no pay.
The battle, Stiver said, was effectively limited to about one-third of the government's total budget.
Sixty-seven percent of the budget funds entitlement programs, such as Social Security and Medicaid, and other "automatic spending," such as debt service, which were uninterrupted during the shutdown.
The other one-third, or about $967 billion, accounted for discretional spending for other programs, including the Department of Defense.
Stivers said he never wanted government closure and is not entirely pleased with the resulting compromise.
"It was a compromise I did not love, but it prevented government default," that surely would have had a detrimental effect on the stock market and private citizens' retirement plans, Stivers said.
Stivers said he is particularly opposed to a medical-device tax that remains in effect as part of the new health-care law championed by President Barack Obama.
The 2.3-percent excise tax is applicable only to American-produced medical goods.
"It's a job killer," Stivers said. "I hope the tax can still be repealed later."
Stivers said while he supports some parts of Obamacare, "there is a better way to do it," a point he illustrated by surveying the audience as to how many have experienced an increase in their employer-provided health-care costs.