Continuing an ongoing theme in the GOP-led Legislature, a committee today spent a considerable amount of time debating a memorial that would require the federal government to pass a balanced budget.
State Rep. Clay Ingram, R-Pensacola, presented House Memorial 499 during a Federal Affairs committee meeting today. The memorial is a non-statutory bill “urging Congress to propose to states amendment to U.S. Constitution that requires annual federal balanced budget.”
Democrats led the charge in questioning the need for the memorial and the possible effect such a requirement would have on Social Security and defense spending. Ingram said that he had not calculated the fiscal impact on social programs, but insisted that the bill did not necessarily mean cuts to them.
“There is a way to do this that would not hit the most vulnerable,” he said.
He also insisted that raising those concerns were an example of a “scare tactic” used to justify raising the federal deficit.
State Rep. Luis Garcia, D-Miami, one of the most vocal opponents of the memorial, asked Ingram if he understood the difference between the state’s responsibilities and the federal government’s responsibilities. He also pointed out that the lack of specifics in Ingram’s bill was “dangerous.”
“I think the danger is not balancing the budget on a federal level,” Ingram replied. “The thought here is that the national debt is a job killer.”
State Rep. Geri Thompson, D-Orlando, expressed concern over the recent trend of GOP lawmakers putting forward legislation to undermine the federal government.
“I don’t know when the federal government became the enemy,” she said. “I think it must have happened in 2008.”
“There is hypocrisy here,” Thompson said. “We take in billions from the federal government. These are the scare tactics.”
Gov. Rick Scott has been criticized for taking federal stimulus funds to balance the state’s budget — even after claiming that the federal stimulus package was a “failure.” Most of the state’s Medicaid program is also paid for by federal funds.
State Rep. Elaine Schwartz, D-Hollywood, echoed Thompson’s sentiment. “This isn’t an economic bill,” she said. “This is a political bill.”
Ingram’s bill is not the only memorial, or even legislation, that has been introduced to make a political statement about the role of the federal government. State Rep. Matt Caldwell, R-Fort Meyers, and Sen. Greg Evers, R-Pensacola, have also introduced bills and memorials for the 2012 that aim to curb the power and scope of the federal government.
Igram’s bill was approved, and will move forward.