This is a tribute to Doug Bruce — a first. To say he’s an unsung hero would be an understatement on both counts. The guy is a true enigma, but a patriot to the core.
Bruce single-handedly authored, funded, and advocated for the TABOR (Taxpayer Bill of Rights) Amendment in 1992 (his third try). TABOR is a Colorado constitutional amendment that limits the increase of both taxes and spending except with voter approval in all political subdivisions of the state, to inflation and increase in population, based on prior years. While a few limited-government groups also funded advertising after it qualified for the ballot, the petition process was successful only because of Doug’s devotion and single-mindedness.
TABOR was opposed by every major business and union organization, plus all the Democrat and virtually all the Republican politicians. The airwaves were saturated with “the sky is falling” stories. It passed by a vote of 54 to 46 percent. “Mr. Tabor” has had far more impact, positive or negative, on the state than anyone in recent years.
I think we should rename the state after him; but he is the most condemned, vilified, and hated person in Colorado. He recently spent two and a half years in various Colorado prisons — yeah, he broke some rules, and he did some technically illegal transactions, and he did tweak them, just like a child taunting his parents. But if he were anybody else, they probably would barely have looked at him, and at most imposed a fine and community service.
I think we should rename the state after Bruce, but he is the most condemned, vilified, and hated person in Colorado.
Mr. Bruce is a patriot, a constitutionalist, an extremely disciplined and energetic man, and a genius of the type of our Founding Fathers when it comes to his constitutional work. He is also rude, condescending, snide, narcissistic, crude, and juvenile. I don’t think he’s acknowledged a friend in his life, except his mother, who died some years ago. (My mother-in-law played bridge with her for a number of years.)
Since 1987, I’ve met Doug three or four times and talked to him on the phone three or four times. Every time I told him he was my hero and offered a few bucks for the cause. Every time he told me that he didn’t want to hear that crap, didn’t want my money, and furthermore I was a piece of crap. Basically unless I devoted virtually every waking hour to collecting signatures and signing up others to do so for the amendment of the day, I was an unprincipled, lazy lowlife — he just didn’t need people like that in his life. He relented and took small donations twice. He was essentially self-funded for the petition process, and with everybody continually scrutinizing his every move, he probably didn’t want to have to account for other people’s money.
My wife, Roxane, spent many, many hours over the years collecting signatures for various Bruce amendments. He never thanked her for past effort, just manically focused on more commitment. When promoting his cause on call-in shows, he called just about every caller and host stupid, whether they agreed with him or not. But people liked the idea of having some control over their taxes, and he explained the idea very effectively, many times talking around his interviewers, much like Reagan. But other than that he is definitely not Reaganesque. He is a piece of work. He was appointed to a vacant seat in the Colorado House from a conservative district in 2007. During the prayer, before he was sworn in, he kicked a kneeling photographer in the knee for taking his picture. He is the only member of the Colorado House to be censured in its history. The vote: 62-1.
But today in Colorado, we pay 4.63 percent — flat rate, state income tax; and about 0.55 percent residential real estate taxes — commercial real estate taxes are relatively high here, based on another amendment that limits residential taxes, and are now about the same as in Texas. In the unincorporated area where we live, we pay about 5 percent sales tax, although some liberal cities and towns have rates up to 11.2 percent. Based on trends in other politically similar states, my local and state taxes would be about double without TABOR.
One ironic result of TABOR is that the Democrats have steadily increased their stranglehold on the state. A majority of Colorado voters are fiscally conservative and socially liberal. It was incredibly ingenious — the governor and legislature are truly neutered, and Democrats can just play around the fringes on spending. The establishment has desperately tried to repeal TABOR several times. The voters did approve a temporary suspension of tax rebates after an economic downturn lowered the base year collections significantly, but this hasn’t changed the core and essence of TABOR.
Voters in towns, counties, and other taxing districts can exempt themselves from TABOR as to local taxes, though. It’s called “de-Brucing,” and taxing districts in places like Aspen, Glenwood Springs, Boulder, and Telluride have de-Bruced, to one degree or another. The Colorado Supreme Court and other left-wing courts have tried to invent every legal theory imaginable to overturn or mute it, but all they’ve come up with is to say some “fees” aren’t covered by TABOR.
Bruce screwed up, sure but many think he went to prison only for permanently limiting the socialist state. State politicians literally spit when they say his name. Most people know him only as a very, very bad man who’s done horrible things. The attitude toward Bruce and his supporters was summed up in 2006 by a Colorado Springs attorney, referring to him as a “narcissist, sociopath, and crackpot enabler.” Doug is a hero to me, and to many other crackpots. We know him by his fruits. Whether we’re crackpots or deplorables, we appreciate being enabled.
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