- Associated Press - Thursday, February 19, 2015

CHARLESTON, W.Va. (AP) - As he weighs a 2016 presidential bid, Republican Ohio Gov. John Kasich visited the West Virginia statehouse Thursday to urge lawmakers to call for a constitutional convention for a federal balanced-budget amendment.

That morning, Kasich made a similar appeal in South Carolina, an early primary state. His balanced-budget tour has also taken him to Arizona, North and South Dakota, Montana, Wyoming, Utah and Idaho.

With a ticking debt clock behind him in the West Virginia Capitol, the 62-year-old former U.S. House budget chairman said the push could be an opportunity for polarized political factions to work together.

“This may be a way in which we can all sit down, like I did with the Clinton administration and worked through an agreement that would serve America,” Kasich said.

Thirty-four states would need to pass resolutions to hold the convention, which would be the first since 1787 in Philadelphia. Thirty-eight states would need to ratify an amendment to the U.S. Constitution.

Opponents worry there won’t be a way to rein in what convention delegates try to change, letting them write their own rules and bring a frenzy of topics into play.

Kasich and many groups say 25 states have cleared resolutions for a convention on the balanced-budget issue.

The progressive Center on Budget Policy and Priorities points out that some states have rescinded resolutions, but, ultimately, it’s up to Congress to say if the 34-state mark is met.

Kasich acknowledged concerns about a runaway convention, though he disagrees that the gathering couldn’t be limited.

“It is a real fear out there. It blocks us in some ways,” Kasich said. “But I tell you, if we fiddle around, Rome’s going to burn.”

Groups also fear a balanced-budget amendment would handcuff the government and spur drastic cuts.

Kasich said a balanced-budget requirement would be phased in, and include exemptions for national crises and severe economic downturns.

In West Virginia, a resolution by Republican Sen. Robert Karnes, R-Upshur, isn’t that specific. It calls for a convention to pass fiscal restraints, limits on federal government power and congressional term limits. The proposal cleared one committee Wednesday.

Another resolution by Sen. Ryan Ferns, R-Ohio, is limited to the convention and balanced-budget amendment.

South Dakota, which passed its resolution Tuesday, goes even further.

It requires convention delegates from the state to take an oath affirming they wouldn’t support a rogue amendment, and the measure would allow up to a $5,000 civil fine if a delegate violated the oath.

In Virginia, a call for the convention is likely to die again this year.

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