Five Year Balanced Budget
Patrick Ruffini thinks one way out of our national fiscal nightmare is to adopt, like 49 of the 50 states, a balanced budget amendment. Recognizing that this has had the perverse effect of profligate spending in flush years and irresponsible cuts in lean years, he suggests a five year cycle:
In bad times, states could deficit spend — by no more than the surpluses of the previous four years. In good times, states would be forced to bank surpluses — particularly if the past few years were economically tough.
Given that legislators are mostly elected on two-year cycles, the most likely effect of this would be to exacerbate the problem. They’d still spend like drunken sailers when the money’s available, deficit spend when allowed, and then have draconian cuts if necessary in the fifth year. Or come up with cute budgetary tricks to create a budget that’s “balanced” on paper by shifting the spending to January 1 of the next year or somesuch.