The New York Times Sunday has a major article on Colorado’s fight over the Colorado Economic Recovery Act , also known as Referendum C and D. The trouble began in 1992 when Colorado voters passed the Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights to curb excessive government spending.

Gov. Bill Owens is backing the proposal to suspend TABOR for five years, so that we can find the money to fund programs that are crucial to the well-being of our citizens. The radical right is up in arms, and bringing in their outside guns, like former Texas Congressman Dick Armey, to fight him. Others fighting Owens include Grover Norquist, president of Americans for Tax Reform and Jon Caldera of the Independence Institute.

The fighting is getting personal.

In June Mr. Armey, a Texas Republican, swept into town for a televised debate and called Mr. Owens a pledge-breaking politician caught drinking “backslider’s wine.” Smiling through clenched teeth, Mr. Owens accused Mr. Armey of adding billions to the national debt while in Congress, and his allies passed out copies of Mr. Armey’s budget votes.

That was garden-party talk compared with the comments from Mr. Norquist, who said in an interview that Mr. Owens had gone “beyond weak-kneed; he’s put on the other team’s uniform and is leading the charge.” Retorting in another interview that Mr. Norquist “never lets the facts get in the way,” Mr. Owens said his former ally had “tried to threaten me” with political reprisal, and he challenged him to a debate. Mr. Norquist later responded: “Consider that an accepted challenge. He’s finished nationally.”

Caldera says TABOR “saved Colorado’s fanny.” You can find more of his views at the Independence Institute website. Others see it differently:

But the Bell Policy Center in Denver, an opponent of the law, found sharp reductions in immunizations, mental health services and inspections of day care centers, along with an increase in substandard roads and uninsured children. The center also blamed the cap for reducing access to higher education. “We’re taking away the opportunity for people to better their lives,” said Wade Buchanan, the center’s president.

You can read more Bell’s findings here (pdf). The Referendum’s “vote yes” campaign website is here and their FAQ section on the referendums is here. We’ll give the last word to Governor Owen’s on this one:

Of his conservative critics, Mr. Owens later said: “Their job is to build memberships, keep the base active and convince members that the bad guys are always out to get them. In this case they’re wrong.”