DENVER - Of all the politicians in Colorado, no one is simultaneously more important and less liked than Douglas Bruce.
In 2008, his one year at the Legislature, the Colorado Springs Republican kicked a news photographer - earning him
the only censure in the House's history - called migrant workers illiterate peasants" during official debate and
lost his seat on the military affairs committee for refusing to co-sponsor a resolution honoring veterans.
His own Republican voters turned him out later that year.
Bruce often dresses in a tattered gray cardigan sweater, and his only material show of vanity seems to be his license
TABOR, the Taxpayer's Bill of Rights, is Bruce's only child. And while most Republicans were quick to censure Bruce, the party has embraced his creation.
It wasn't always that way.
Republicans and Democrats in the Legislature rallied against TABOR's birth in the early 1990s. But Bruce succeeded in
1992, a year of widespread voter anger echoed by this year's tea parties."
That was a period of general anti-government attitude. People were mad at Washington. There was the Perot
candidacy," said Colorado State University professor John Straayer.
Texas billionaire H. Ross Perot founded the Reform Party that year to support his presidential run. He won 23 percent
of the vote in Colorado.
That same election, Colorado voters approved Bruce's TABOR amendment to the state constitution.
It was, in fact, a revolutionary document that changed the citizens' relationship to their government. It put the
citizens back in charge because it was, in fact, our money that is on the line," Bruce said at a Republican Study
Committee meeting this fall.
Outside the Legislature, Republicans were more supportive of Bruce even at the start, he said. The Republican state
convention adopted TABOR into the party platform in 1992, the year it passed.
Bruce has few kind words for many of the Republicans currently in the Legislature, although he's proud that TABOR now
is an article of faith" in the GOP.
Even though they stab it in the back, they have to publicly acknowledge it as a hard-core, bedrock doctrine," Bruce
told the Herald in December Dan Njegomir is a Republican activist who in 1992 wrote pro-TABOR editorials for the
Colorado Springs Gazette-Telegraph. TABOR was not a mainstream GOP idea at the time, he said.
This was a ballot issue that truly - whether from the grass roots or Doug Bruce's fertile mind - was truly not born
of special interests," Njegomir said.
At the time, many Republicans agreed with former Rep. Brad Young, R-Lamar, who fought TABOR because it stripped power
from the Legislature.
But TABOR became a dilemma for Republicans, who always have run on a small-government platform, Young said.
How do you campaign for smaller government and turn around and oppose TABOR? It put them in a quandary. My answer is
simple. That should be done not by a vote of the people but by the people who are elected to make public policy," he
Straayer, the CSU professor who also opposes TABOR, says Bruce's idea has gotten legs of its own since 1992."
Since then, it has sort of become a part of the Republican orthodoxy," Straayer said. It's kind of become its own
secular fiscal Bible."
Scott McInnis, the presumptive GOP candidate for governor, is on board.
TABOR was put in by the taxpayers," McInnis said at a campaign stop in Denver. Any effort to dilute the right of
the voters to vote on those tax increases will be adamantly opposed by my administration if I become governor."
That doesn't put him at odds with Gov. Bill Ritter.
When talking about a 2011 ballot initiative, Ritter has focused on the financial constraints of TABOR and other
amendments, not on the right of voters to approve tax increases.
(Ritter) has always supported the right of the people to vote on taxes, and he continues to support it," said his
spokesman, Evan Dreyer.
From that perspective, TABOR's populist ideals have worked into both political parties.
It's a hard thing for a politician to say, 'I don't think the people should be voting on these matters,'" Straayer