Interstate Compacts in the State Challenge to Fiscal Federalism
Interstate compacts are agreements that have long been used to facilitate multilateral cooperation. This chapter examines conservative efforts to use interstate compacts as a device for coordinating state opposition to federal policy activity—an extension of the uncooperative federalism that characterized the relationship between many conservative state executives and the Obama Administration. This chapter describes several proposed compacts that were fashioned as a fallback policy option for states engaged in litigation against the federal government, a direct means of producing new legal controversies, or a means of simplifying multistate coordination and collective action problems. The chapter devotes particular attention to the Compact for a Balanced Budget, an interstate agreement devised to facilitate the revival of state efforts to call a constitutional convention to enact a federal balanced budget amendment. Interest in a convention was rekindled by the debt ceiling crisis, and several campaigns quickly developed to capitalize on state interest in a convention. By creating a compact commission, the campaign parleyed potentially transient policy interest into a permanent administrative structure. The creation of a commission also enables supporters to meet with federal actors on an intergovernmental basis, rather than as lobbyists.
Keywords: interstate compacts, federalism, horizontal federalism, balanced budget amendment, constitutional convention, intergovernmental lobbying, constitutional amendment, Compact for a Balanced Budget