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Bruce's plan to rile up voters foiled

City officials breathed a sigh of relief last week when two judges, in separate decisions, upheld the city's right to sue Douglas Bruce and keep his tax-cut measures off the Nov. 1 ballot.

In federal and state court, Bruce, an elected El Paso County commissioner, said he wanted his proposed tax cuts on the ballot in part to rally anti-tax voters against a statewide budget fix.

Federal district court judge Wiley Daniel and state district court judge David Parrish rejected lawsuits filed by Bruce that would have forced his tax-cut proposals onto the ballot.

In doing so, Bruce's plan to draw attention to the November ballot was sidelined, but not silenced.

"This was just a way to hype the anti-tax vote," says Bob Loevy, a Colorado College political science professor.

Loevy says the passage of statewide Referenda C and D, a compromise budget fix endorsed by Republican Gov. Bill Owens, would be a "major blow" to Bruce's longstanding fight to curb Colorado taxes.

He adds that Bruce would benefit from stirring up local interest in El Paso County, where voters tend to support tax-cutting measures.

In his ballot petitions, Bruce has proposed eliminating the city's property tax, reducing its sales tax, refunding money collected by the city for street lights and requiring repayment of future city bonds within 10 years.

The city sued Bruce, charging that his initiatives would change the city charter. The roughly 18,200 valid signatures Bruce collected for each petition would be enough to put an ordinance change on the ballot, but not a charter change, which requires 25,000 valid signatures.

Even if the city eventually loses its suit, last week's decisions force any question off November's ballot.

"It was a no-brainer from my perspective," says clerk and recorder Robert Balink, whose office was spared having to reconfigure 36 ballot styles for 380 voting precincts overnight. "It would have been physically impossible."

-- Dan Wilcock

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