On July 8, NDD United, a coalition of a wide variety of groups and stakeholders interested in protecting nondefense discretionary (NDD) spending from budget cuts, held a town hall meeting to discuss continuing threats and the potential for further cuts to discretionary spending. Among the threats, NDD United emphasized (1) the continuation of flat funding for NDD spending, and (2) the possibility of a new constitutional convention that could lead to a balanced budget amendment.
The current budget situation, the town hall speakers noted, does not look good for any increase, significant or otherwise, to NDD spending. With costs increasing for areas of mandatory spending, such as healthcare for veterans, and limits imposed by sequestration and the Budget Control Act, it is likely that NDD spending will remain flat or see small decreases. Flat spending, the speakers pointed out, is a de facto decrease since funding will not keep up with inflation. It is also expected that a short (4 to 6 week) continuing resolution (CR) will be passed in September to allow additional time to complete the FY 2015 appropriations bills.
The other half of the discussion focused on the dangers presented by a new constitutional convention and the possibility of a balanced budget amendment. A balanced budget amendment – something often discussed but which is typically a nonstarter legislatively speaking – would be devastating to NDD spending. With mandatory spending and national defense likely to receive the most protection from cuts, such an amendment would be far worse than sequestration for NDD. However, a somewhat unnoticed threat is also looming: a new constitutional convention. Many states and organizations (mostly those driven by corporate interests) have pushed for a constitutional convention largely on the impetus of passing a balanced budget amendment. So far, eight states have passed resolutions and applications are present in 23 others. NDD United warns that a constitutional convention would produce unpredictable results that could be far worse than a balanced budget amendment. They are urging stakeholders to work with state-level partners to inform state and local legislators of the dangers of a new constitutional convention.