What is a balanced budget amendment?
Balanced budget amendments are not new, a federal version has been debated for years -- and all but three of the states have their own version of a balanced budget requirement, imposed either by constitution or by statute (the three that do not are Wyoming, North Dakota, and Alaska according to the Austin American Statesman).
In sum, these balanced budget laws (or amendments) state that the government cannot spend more than it takes in; in this proposal, each year the President would have to provide a proposed budget to Congress (who has the purse-strings) that demonstrated no plan for the feds to spend more than the federal income.
The 2011 Balanced Budget Amendment - Details
For more information on the current proposed bill for a Balanced Budget Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, read through the links provided here by Thomas.gov.
Note that this proposal not only seeks a Balanced Budget but it also establishes caps on spending at 18% Gross Domestic Product (GDP) and it fights against an increase in federal taxes by requiring an overwhelming Congressional vote approving any tax hike.
Shown below is the version of the bill that was accurate as of the date of this post (you can download a pdf from the Government Printing Office here).
The House of Representatives will vote on this bill during the week of July 18, 2011. If the House approves this bill, then the next step will be to send the proposed amendment to the 50 states for their ratification:
Proposing an amendment to the Constitution of the United States relative to balancing the budget.