October 8 2009, 9:56 AM
As Colorado continues its battle to balance a cash-strapped budget by sending employees home without pay on Friday, a vast array of special-interest groups are meeting in secret---barring lawmakers and the press---and are theorizing about how to alter the state's constitution. The purpose of the meetings, according to The Denver Post, is to achieve long-term fiscal solvency for Colorado. That could mean a ballot measure in coming years that would permanently reform the Taxpayer's Bill of Rights and another that may alter how citizen initiatives end up on the ballot (possibly by making it harder). The "Colorado Reform Roundtable" is a loose alliance of business, labor, and nonprofit groups similar to the diverse coalition that helped pass Referendum C in 2005, which suspended revenue limits of TABOR to halt the downward "ratchet effect" on the budget. "In some ways, it's an effort to start the discussion again like we had around Ref C in 2004 and 2005," says Wade Buchanan, president of the liberal Bell Policy Center, one of the estimated 100 participating groups, which range from agriculture to homebuilders. If TABOR is targeted, you can bet there will be opposition. Some are praising the law in the economic downturn, including state Representative B.J. Nikkel, a northern Front Range Republican. "Colorado has gone through good times and bad, but TABOR has been there as a 'guardian' to keep government spending in check, and to lessen the pain when the budget falls short of expectations," Nikkel (pictured) writes in the Windsor Beacon.