ON-Lion Letter
Most Americans likely know very little about their state's constitution, yet these documents have significant effects on our day-to-day lives.  State constitutions often contain provisions that pressure states to spend more or that require them to limit spending. 

A late-August paper from the Mercatus Center at George Mason University in Arlington, Va., "State Constitutions and Fiscal Policy," helps policymakers understand how state constitutions impose both fiscal pressures and fiscal restraints on state governments.  Its author, David M. Primo, argues that important policy debates should be conducted through the legislative process rather than through constitutional tinkering, and that constitutions should instead provide overarching fiscal limits on the scope of government.

Primo is a senior affiliated scholar at the Mercatus Center.  He is an associate professor of political science and business administration at the University of Rochester.

"Constitutions are not a cure-all for fiscal ailments in the states," he concludes in the paper.  "At best, they can provide the foundation for fiscal health, leaving policy decisions to elected officials.  At worst, they limit flexibility, impose fiscal pressures, and favor funding for some policy areas over others.

"[S]pending priorities should be determined by legislatures, not imposed by judges or constitutions," he concludes in the paper, and "ensuring a fiscally sustainable government is an important way in which constitutions can allow legislatures, governors, and voters to determine spending and taxing priorities."

The Lynde and Harry Bradley Foundation in Milwaukee substantially supports the Mercatus Center.
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