NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis


October 25, 2005

The federal government has substantially grown under the leadership of a political party that for many decades has claimed to be the party of smaller government, says Pete du Pont, chairman of the National Center for Policy Analysis.

Spending can be reduced in many ways and by significant amounts if Congress and the president have the will to do it, says du Pont.

One solution is a constitutional amendment to hold the growth in federal spending to specific percentages of revenue unless there is a supermajority override by both houses of Congress. It is not a new idea:

  • Delaware, for example, passed a constitutional amendment in 1980 to limit state government spending to 98 percent of revenue unless there is a three-fifths vote of each legislative house to spend more.
  • The extra 2 percent goes into a Rainy Day Fund -- the kind of fund that could be used for relief in Katrina-type national catastrophes.
  • The amendment has produced 25 consecutive years of balanced Delaware budgets, a fiscal discipline that the federal government needs even more that state governments do.

Another approach is the Taxpayers Bill of Rights (called TABOR), which Colorado put into place via a constitutional amendment in 1992.

  • It limits annual state government spending to inflation plus population growth, with any extra revenue going back to the taxpayers.
  • From 1995 to 2000 Colorado ranked first in the nation in gross domestic product (GDP) growth and second in personal income growth.
  • Its success has generated a furious effort to allow more spending through a measure on the 2006 ballot.

Source: Pete du Pont, "Don't Spend, Amend: It's time to write budgetary discipline into the Constitution,", October 24, 2005.

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