By Bruce Kennedy, DailyFinance

NEW YORK ( DailyFinance) -- The Congress now sworn in brings with it a new group of fiscally and socially conservative lawmakers -- a good portion of them elected as part of the Tea Party momentum currently reverberating through the Republican Party. Their campaign rhetoric of limited and financially responsible government clearly struck a chord with voters during the campaigns.

But now, to switch metaphors, the rubber is about to hit the road, leading some communities to question if they can indeed function along the Spartan economic guidelines touted by Tea Party activists. One place those municipal leaders might want to examine is Colorado's second-largest city, Colorado Springs.

The city is known as the birthplace of the Libertarian movement and the incubator of Colorado's Taxpayer's Bill of Rights (TABOR) -- which caps municipal spending and limits the amount of tax revenue the state's local governments can collect. "The Springs" is also home to a variety of conservative organizations such as Focus on the Family, and its neighbors with the U.S. Air Force Academy, NORAD and several major military installations.
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But that conservative stereotype also has its contradictions. Colorado Springs also has the largest number of medical marijuana dispensaries in the state, outside of Denver, a strong counterculture scene and a national reputation for cultural diversity.

Turning out the Street Lights

Colorado Springs has made headlines in recent years for its particular brand of economic conservatism. Some property tax rates there are among the lowest in the country for a city of its size. Local sales taxes make up more than 50% of its annual budget for public services such as law enforcement, fire fighting and road infrastructure.

That reluctance to tax-and-spend has been a part of the Colorado Springs municipal lifestyle for more than a decade. But as the recent economic downturn deepened, it created some unwelcome situations. Last year, the city was criticized for turning off some of its street lights, selling off police helicopters, reducing public transportation and closing municipal recreation facilities -- along with cutting some other services -- all in an attempt to keep its budget under control.

At the same time, local county officials have made major reductions in health care services such as monitoring sexually transmitted diseases, rates of drug abuse and air and water quality.