Hyperbole flows as opponent accuses sponsor of hypocrisy

BATON ROUGE, La – Despite smooth sailing in the House, the National Debt Relief Amendment came to an abrupt halt this morning. Sen. Karen Peterson (D-New Orleans) came out aggressively against it, and without objection she had it deferred in its Senate committee hearing.

This late in the session, such a deferral essentially means the HCR 87 initiative is dead in Louisiana.

The resolution was for a state-initiated amendment to the U.S. Constitution, reading:

“An increase in the federal debt requires approval from a majority of the legislatures of the separate States.”


North Dakota State Senator Curtis Olafson (R-Edinburg) travelled all the way to Baton Rouge to testify in favor, and he cited the national debt problem as nonpartisan and in urgent need of address. He also called on legislators to consider the morality of imposing an ever-growing burden on future generations. (Click above to hear an excerpt from his presentation – four minutes.)

“I have a little two-year-old grandson. He hasn’t signed a mortgage. He hasn’t cast a vote – but our generation is sending his generation the debt for our spending today. We need to be paying as we go.”

Olafson noted favorable research from the Goldwater Institute (supported by the Pelican Institute) and the American Legislative Exchange Council’s adoption of it as model legislation. Finally, he sought to refute fears of a runaway amendments convention.

“Unless and until 38 states ratify a proposed amendment, the Constitution is untouched and nothing changes… An Article V runaway convention is a myth; a $14 trillion national debt is reality.”


His presentation, however, did not impress the Senate Committee on Governmental Affairs. Sen. Peterson lashed out at it as hypocrisy, since she believes Louisiana legislators pursue debt-enabled federal aid, and she proposed to rename it the “Hypocrisy Resolution.” (Click above to hear her exchange with Olafson and Rep. Noble Ellington – 8 minutes.)

Louisiana and Oklahoma are, in fact, the most federal aid dependent states in the nation, receiving half of their total revenue in that form. However, recent research suggests federal aid only worsens a state’s long-term fiscal outlook.

Further, 49 of the 50 states have balanced budget requirements; yet John Hood, president of the John Locke Foundation, a North Carolina policy institute, says that rather than cut spending when they can’t pay their bills, the states get the federal government to borrow on their behalf. Hood believes this is arguably a violation of their own constitutions.

HCR 87’s sponsor, Rep. Noble Ellington (R-Winnsboro), pointed out that receiving federal aid and endorsing ongoing deficit spending were two different issues, but his response fell on deaf ears. No members offered alternative debt-restraint strategies, beyond electing new federal representatives, but the final move for deferral went without objection.

Despite this setback, Olafson shall continue to promote the initiative. A Pennsylvania legislator has introduced it, and Olafson has a prime sponsor lined up in Michigan as well.

Fergus Hodgson is the capitol bureau reporter with the Pelican Institute for Public Policy and editor of The Pelican Post. He can be contacted at fhodgson@pelicanpolicy.org, and one can follow him on twitter.