Having read with great interest the proposals being discussed during the recent legislative session concerning a constitutional convention to address the state’s current fiscal situation, one must ask: Exactly what do they propose to change in the constitution?
Do they wish to abolish constitutionally protected funds? Which ones? 8G support for education, transportation trust, oil field site restoration, coastal restoration, rigs to reefs, oil spill contingency, Wildlife and Fisheries Conservation? Specifically which ones? Also, let’s not forget the expenditure side: Constitutionally mandated expenditures should be examined also, to determine which ones should be eliminated so the income may be directed elsewhere.
Shall we repeal the protections for supplemental pay for police, firemen and sheriff’s deputies, the mandated revenue sharing to political subdivisions, repeal the nursing home funding protection, protection of judge’s salaries or the minimum foundation for K-12? No one ever discusses elimination of constitutionally mandated expenditures. But this must be included in the discussion. Perhaps all this is just another shiny object (much like the acclaimed Ohio Checkbook system) to detract from the need to address meaningful fiscal reform.
Does the constitution need to be revised? Yes. But preliminary hearings should be held to develop agreement on a list of revisions before calling a limited convention to adopt them. If the call is for a general convention, and items such as the Bond Security and Redemption Fund are on the table, it will cause extreme havoc for the state’s bond rating. These things must be thought out, or we could just call for a convention and have it go down in flames.
Robert D. Harper
retired undersecretary of the Department of Natural Resources