It is very big news that Governor Owens has decided to compromise with Democratic legislators (plus a few Republicans who had joined them) to endorse a ballot referendum that would suspend TABOR refunds for five years in order to fix the state's $2 million budget hole. This means that regardless of how many voter initiated amendments will be on the ballot -- and TABOR supporters have announced plans to put up to sixteen such amendments on the ballot in an obvious move to protect the status quo by confusing and disgusting the voters -- there will be just one referendum measure that supporters will be able to say is bipartisan, endorsed by the governor and by legislative Democrats. Republican true believers like Doug Bruce are already blasting Owens as a Republican-in-name-only who has sold out to the liberals. That's probably fine with Owens -- it helps position him as a moderate for the 2008 Senate race. I think this move from the governor shows that whatever dreams he may have had of running for President in 2008 are gone. Never a darling of the religious right (and having earned some animosity from them for pulling the rug out from under Bob Schaffer in last year's GOP Senate primary), his base of national support has come from Grover Norquist's band of merry tax cutters. What the "drown government in the bathtub" crowd is finding out is that Republican pols are happy to take their money when things are going well, as they were during the Clinton years. But once the budget has been cut to the bone and real people are suffering, as has happened here in Colorado and is starting to happen nationally, their nerve fails. Owens, who apparently can read the results of last November's election here in Colorado better than the TABOR bitter enders can, realized that people actually like having, for example, a University of Colorado that actually gets support from the State of Colorado as opposed to a privatized school that has to cut research functions and prefer well heeled out of state students to working class Colorado kids. Or a CDOT that can actually look for loose boulders and restrain them before they come tumbling down onto I-70. Colorado's government hasn't escaped the bathtub yet. We can expect that the backers of the sixteen right-wing tax and budget amendments -- some of which are actually even more draconian than TABOR -- will spare no expense in trying to get their measures passed. And those of us who defend the concept of a government that serves the people will have to hold our noses and actually work with Bill Owens to get the legislature's referendum passed. But ultimately Doug Bruce is right about one thing -- this compromise is a victory for liberalism, broadly defined as the belief that government is something more than just the enemy that steals your money through taxation. It's just too bad it has taken a fiscal crisis to make that case for us in this state.