PIERRE, S.D. (AP) — Ohio Gov. John Kasich has kicked off a six-state tour pushing a balanced budget amendment to the U.S. Constitution with a meeting in South Dakota in which he called on state lawmakers to get behind the proposal.
A speech and wide-ranging political discussion with legislators at an American Legion post in Pierre Tuesday night was the possible 2016 presidential candidate’s first stop on his tour.
“Who the heck thinks we should keep spending without any regard to the consequences?” Kasich, a Republican, asked the South Dakota gathering. “I don’t care … if you’re a Republican, a Democrat or a Martian. This is not what we should be doing as a nation. It’s irresponsible.”
Kasich last month met with state lawmakers in Phoenix to map out how to secure support for the budget amendment in Arizona. Shortly after the visit, he said, invitations from nine other states came in. This week, Kasich’s travels will take him to the Dakotas, Montana, Wyoming, Utah and Idaho.
Right now, 24 states — 10 short of the 34 necessary for a constitutional convention — have passed resolutions supporting a balanced budget amendment, according to the Kasich-backed nonprofit advocacy group, Balanced Budget Forever. Thirty-eight states would then have to approve the change for the amendment to become effective.
Sen. Ernie Otten, who plans to introduce a balanced budget resolution in the South Dakota Senate, said the nation’s mounting debt motivates him.
Kasich was noncommittal on whether the budget amendment campaign could be part of an unorthodox springboard into a White House run, but said he didn’t start the push as a step toward the presidency.
“It’s a privilege to be governor of Ohio … and that’s my focus,” he said after the meeting, sitting in a small Legion hall office with South Dakota Gov. Dennis Daugaard. “But if I think something else makes sense, if I think the field is lacking or there’s an opportunity, I’ll look at it. All my options are open.”
Some of the state lawmakers who invited Kasich to speak said it was too early to make any judgments about a potential presidential bid. Daugaard said he doesn’t dislike Kasich, but that he is better acquainted with other potential candidates, such as Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker and New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie.
Kasich made his mark in the U.S. House as a fiscal hawk while serving as chairman of the House Budget Committee and claims credit for crafting a balanced federal budget before leaving Congress in 2000. He took on a huge deficit during his narrowly won first term as Ohio’s governor and then sailed to re-election in 2014.
“Who could be in a better position? The only thing I haven’t been is a movie actor and a Supreme Court justice, and Arnold says he’s going to put me in a movie,” Kasich said with a laugh.