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Two years ago, Greg Beesley was rallying thousands of Utahns behind three tax initiatives that failed at the ballot only after a long and costly campaign.

These days, the longtime activist spends most of his time working as a truck driver to pay off the second mortgage on his home and the other debts he accumulated as chairman of the Tax Limitation Coalition.Now, when Beesley does volunteer work, it's as likely to be for an organization seeking a cure for spinal cord injuries as for the latest efforts of the tax limitation movement.

He serves as Salt Lake County chairman of the recently formed Independent Party but credits others with doing much of the work of running the political organization created by tax initiative supporters.

And it has been months since he gathered any signatures on their petition to get an initiative removing the sales tax from food purchases on the November 1990 ballot.

"I'm not ready to go back yet. I've got to recoup my finances. I don't know how long that will take," Beesley said, declining to specify just how much money he owes after going almost two years without a regular paycheck.

That doesn't mean he regrets the time he spent on the failed initiatives. As the veteran of several initiative campaigns over more than 20 years, Beesley knows the costs associated with activism.

"I just don't see it as anything heroic. I see it as an obligation. When you live in a free society, you're obligated," Beesley said. "There are more important things than getting your boat out on weekends."

Well before the 1988 election, Beesley had all but given up being a building contractor and relied on occasional odd jobs and money raised by refinancing his house to take care of his growing family.

Less than two months before the November election that year, Beesley's wife, Marva, gave birth to their sixth child. Today their children range in age from 1 1/2 to 21 years old.

He is not comfortable talking too much about what he gave up during the tax initiative campaign. "I'm a little embarrassed that I get to be seen as the guy who did all the sacrificing. I'm not the only one who did."

And he is sure he'll do it all again, although just when he'll do it will depend more on the health of his family finances than on when voters are ready to get behind one of his causes.

Taking a break from tilling the large garden of a spinal cord injury victim during a recent interview, Beesley's frustration at a recent lost opportunity to battle for tax reform is evident.

Sure, he said, losing the chance to restrict government spending at the polls was disappointing. But so was what became of the spending limitation that lawmakers passed in response to the initiatives.

When state coffers bulged with unspent revenue even after a tax cut, the Legislature decided to change the formula used to calculate the spending limit so the money could be used.

Beesley, who viewed their efforts as a violation of the promise many had made to voters to listen to their concerns over the growth of state spending, said he was ready to resume the battle.

Except that he was out of money. "If I had had a million dollars, I would have jumped into it again," Beesley said without hesitation.