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America's Compact, Part One: What's a Compact?

Most Americans, upon first learning about Compact for America’s Balanced Budget initiative, feel a sense of relief and hopefulness. When faced with the certainty, safety, and speed that America’s Compact provides as a strong solution to our countries looming debt problems, there’s usually only one question left-How does the Compact really work?

First, it’s important for Americans to understand that America’s Compact for a Balanced Budget is already working!

So far, conscientious Americans in four states (Alaska, Georgia, North Dakota, and Mississippi), working with their state legislators have already enacted America’s Compact for a Balanced Budget. So, not only is CFA’s Compact approach already working, but the Congressional Resolution needed to call the convention once thirty-four more states come on board, is already in place as well!

But, what is a Compact?

Many Americans, just like myself, when first learning about America’s compact, wonder… “What is a compact”? “How does a compact work”? “Is it legal/Constitutional”?

Not only are these good questions, but they are questions that every conscientious American should ask! After all, the concept of a balanced budget amendment isn’t new. It’s an idea that’s been floating around for over 200 years now. Ever since, Thomas Jefferson lamented the fact there wasn’t an article restraining our federal government’s capacity to borrow included in our Constitution way back in 1798!

“I wish it were possible to obtain a single amendment to our constitution; I would be willing to depend on that alone for the reduction of the administration of our government to the genuine principles of its constitution. I mean an additional article taking from the federal government the power of borrowing.” -Thomas Jefferson, 1798

So, while the concept of a balanced budget amendment isn’t new, the one thing that sets America’s Compact apart from all other Article V efforts IS the compact itself. And it’s this concept of harnessing an interstate compact to bring our desire for a balanced budget amendment to fruition that appeals to Americans left, right, and center on our current political spectrum.

So, not only is America’s Compact already working, and the needed Congressional Resolution already on the table (still needing to be passed), but it’s important to understand that interstate compacts aren’t new either! In fact, there’s already upwards of 200 of them on the books! On average, a state belongs to 25 interstate compacts.

Today, interstate compacts are harnessed to carry out a wide variety of functions between our states. In essence, interstate compacts are a means for us (through our state legislatures) to coordinate and promote multistate problem solving on a wide variety of issues (e.g. fixing our national debt).

According to the National Center for Interstate Compacts, general purposes for creating an interstate compact include:

  • Establish a formal, legal relationship among states to address common problems or promote a common agenda.

  • Create independent, multi-state governmental authorities (e.g. commissions) that can address issues more effectively than a state agency acting independently, or when no state has the authority to act unilaterally.

  • Establish uniform guidelines, standards, or procedures for agencies in the compact’s member states.

  • Create economies of scale to reduce administrative and other costs.

  • Respond to national priorities in consultation or in partnership with the federal government.

  • Retain state sovereignty in matters traditionally reserved for the states.

  • Settle interstate disputes.

In Part Two of this blog series on America’s Compact, we will take a look at some interstate compacts that already exist, and some of the advantages associated with using interstate compacts.

Related Reading…

Read up on the Congressional House Resolution (HRC 26)/our efforts in D.C.:!congress/c1312

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