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States Walking the Talk

by State Data Lab, published

... for a balanced budget amendment to the US Constitution.


The Balanced Budget Amendment Task Force ( supports efforts to develop an Article 5 convention of the states.  This convention would propose an amendment to the United States Constitution implementing a balanced budget requirement for the federal government.  The Task Force believes there are 17 states with active applications in this effort, and has identified 17 other states deemed ‘likely’ to develop such applications.

As a general rule, these 34 states take care of business back at home.  For example, the chart above shows the latest average Taxpayer Burden estimated by Truth in Accounting for those 34 states came to roughly $4,000, less than one-fifth the $21,400 burden estimated for the other 16 states, on average. (You can see a description of Truth in Accounting’s “Taxpayer Burden” metric here.)

State Data Lab also calculates and reports a metric called “Net Revenue.”  This measure subtracts state government net expenses (expenses less fees and grants) from general revenue, and provides one check on whether states are truly ‘balancing their budgets.’  From 2005 to 2012, the 34 states with active or ‘likely’ Article 5 applications had a balanced budget frequency rate 50% better than that of the other 16 states.

The chart below puts the 50 states in 8 buckets, based on the number of times they posted positive net revenue (a ‘balanced budget’) from 2005 to 2012.  From left to right, bucket number 1 has one state (Illinois) that only ‘balanced its budget’ once from 2005 to 2012.  There are a growing number of states in the other buckets, which range up to the four states (Montana, Maine, North Dakota, and Utah) that posted positive net revenue in all of the eight years ended in 2012.  In turn, the left axis (or y-axis) represents the share of the states in each of those buckets with active or ‘likely’ Article 5 convention applications.  The chart shows that states that balance their own budgets more frequently are also more likely to support an amendment to the US Constitution requiring a balanced federal government budget.


Below are the states in each of the eight buckets in the chart above.  The buckets relate to the number of times in the last eight years that the state balanced its budget.  For example, Illinois only balanced its budget once in the last eight years. At the far right, in bucket number eight, there are four states that balanced their budget in all eight of the years ended in fiscal 2012.  In turn, the states that the Balanced Budget Amendment Task Force deems have a valid or “likely” valid application are listed as “aye” states.

            Bucket                                                            “Aye” State?


Bucket Number One                                                            

Illinois                                                             No


Bucket Number Two

New Jersey                                                     No      


Bucket Number Three

California                                                         No

Connecticut                                                     No

Hawaii                                                             No

Maryland                                                         No

Michigan                                                         Yes


Bucket Number Four

            Delaware                                                        No

            Kentucky                                                        No

            Louisiana                                                        Yes

Massachusetts                                                 No

            New Mexico                                                  Yes

            New York                                                      No


Bucket Number Five

            Arizona                                                           Yes     

            New Hampshire                                              Yes

            Pennsylvania                                                   Yes

            Washington                                                     No


Bucket Number Six

            Alabama                                                          Yes     

            Colorado                                                         Yes

            Georgia                                                           Yes

            Indiana                                                            Yes

Minnesota                                                        No

Oregon                                                            No

Rhode Island                                                   No

South Carolina                                                Yes

Vermont                                                          No

Wisconsin                                                       Yes



Bucket Number Seven

            Alaska                                                             Yes

            Arkansas                                                         Yes

            Florida                                                             Yes

            Idaho                                                               Yes

            Iowa                                                                Yes

            Kansas                                                            Yes     

            Mississippi                                                       Yes

            Missouri                                                          Yes

            Nebraska                                                        Yes

            Nevada                                                           Yes

            North Carolina                                                Yes

            Ohio                                                               Yes

            Oklahoma                                                       Yes

            South Dakota                                                 Yes

            Tennessee                                                       Yes

            Texas                                                              Yes

            Virginia                                                           Yes

            West Virginia                                                  Yes     

            Wyoming                                                        Yes     


Bucket Number Eight

            Maine                                                              No

            Montana                                                          Yes

            North Dakota                                                  Yes

            Utah                                                                Yes

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