Jack Crowe - nice guy, but dead wrong on Illinois

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Don Harmon

Jack Crowe is a wonderful fellow. He is civic-minded and a genuine credit to Oak Park. However, Jack's recent column in Wednesday Journal recited too many incorrect and uninformed Republican talking points for me to ignore [Sending a message to state's deaf Democrats, Viewpoints, Sept. 29]. I have to set the record straight.

First, Illinois is not bankrupt. We have seen a precipitous drop in state revenues as a result of the international economic meltdown, but we are hardly alone — almost every state faces similar budget woes. Illinois state government relies primarily on the individual income tax and the sales tax. Three years ago, we reasonably predicted that revenue would increase by $1.5 billion. Instead, the bottom fell out of the economy during the last year of the Bush administration, and revenue fell by $2.5 billion. This $4 billion swing in a single year resulted in a backlog of unpaid bills and cuts to critical programs. It is not pleasant, but it was not the result of legislative action or inaction.

Second, Illinois does not today owe "creditors" anywhere near the $140 billion that Jack claims. This is absurd. We do owe an embarrassing amount in unpaid bills — almost $5.5 billion. But one can only arrive at Jack's ridiculously inflated figure by counting every bond payment, pension payment and medical bill the state will pay over the next 40 years. Most of these payments won't come due for decades, and we have already identified the revenues from which many will be paid. By Jack's logic, I am personally millions of dollars in debt, because today I do not have cash in the bank to pay off my mortgage, pay my property taxes for the next 40 years, put three grade-school-age children through college, fund my retirement and pay for nursing home care. These are all obligations I plan to fulfill, but I'm not fretting because I haven't yet paid them in full.

Jack says we lawmakers won't cut spending, won't raise taxes and are trying to borrow our way out if it. To the contrary, we cut $3.7 billion in programs and spending on state operations and we directed the governor to make billions more in cuts. We continue to do the routine, responsible borrowing we do in good years and bad — short-term borrowing for cash flow and long-term borrowing to finance capital investments. The only extraordinary borrowing we've done was to satisfy our obligations to fund pensions. This, too, was done responsibly — if you can borrow money at 4 percent to pay off a debt that's costing you 8.5 percent interest, I urge you to do it. It is like refinancing your home mortgage when rates fall.

Voters overwhelmingly oppose raising taxes — perhaps they've been convinced by the bleating of Republican candidates and certain major newspapers who claim incredibly that we can balance our budget in one year by reducing revenue and cutting services. Most of us, however — legislators and taxpayers alike — know that we can't simply cut our way out of this, and, frankly, most taxpayers don't want the government services they depend on to be cut. Illinois needs a modernized revenue system that reforms our outdated practices. Democrats in the state Senate approved a measure to adjust the income tax rate, make our sales tax more like those of our neighboring states and reduce property taxes. A similar measure fell a few votes short in the House, primarily because not a single Republican was willing to support it.

Jack is just wrong — Democrats have cut billions from the budget, reformed spending priorities and tried to modernize an out-of-date tax structure. We have more work to do, but we've passed several key fiscally responsible measures, like rebidding all state contracts and adopting new budget methods that hold state agencies accountable for the results they achieve, not just for the money they spend. And Jack's solution? Vote against the Democrats? Dump Pat Quinn for Scott Lee Cohen? Pat Quinn is an honest, hardworking guy who took office under the worst of circumstances and is trying to steer the state through the foulest economy since the Great Depression. Jack, you're going to dump Pat Quinn and vote for an accused wife-beating pawnbroker whose idea of a job fair is to recruit people into Ponzi rackets and pyramid schemes? Jack, have you lost your mind?

At least you're not planning to vote for stealth-Republican candidate Bill Brady, whose campaign strategy is primarily not being Pat Quinn and not letting voters find out about his ultra-conservative positions — rolling back the minimum wage, ending equal pay for women, eliminating a woman's right to choose in all cases, reinstating the death penalty, constitutionally outlawing civil unions and permitting the mass execution of stray dogs and cats, just to name a few. Remember, it is the George Bush-Republicans who got us into this mess, and the George Bush-Republicans who are doing everything in their power to frustrate President Obama's efforts to steer the nation out of the damage they inflicted. Jack, do you really want to replace Illinois government with a "Bush-without-the-charm" administration?

Jack, you want to send a message to Democrats? Here's how you send a message: vote for Democrats, top to bottom. You will send two clear messages. One, you want Democrats to fix this mess without looking for Republicans to provide bipartisan "political cover." Two, you support President Obama and you trust Democrats to provide Democratic solutions that protect working families and help people most in need. You support educating our children and putting people back to work.

Jack, if you try to send a message by voting Democrats out of office, you'll have to live with the consequences. You will empower all the anti-Obama "tea party" activists of the world. You'll be responsible for the slash-and-burn, Bush-retread Republican "solutions" that will cut education funding, cut social service funding and throw people off the health care rolls. Also, we can afford tax breaks for the richest among us. That's some message.

Don Harmon is an Illinois state senator, 39th District, assistant Senate majority leader and Democratic committeeman who lives in Oak Park.

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OP Resident #545 from Oak Park  

Posted: May 9th, 2014 11:26 AM

Sen. Harmon is an intelligent, honest man. He is also, however, a life-long member of the political class in Illinois. He has never worked in the private sector. No, I don't count his law firm as private sector because it represents public sector interests. In other words, he doesn't create widgets, he creates laws & paper & burdens on the rest of us. In other words, he's part of the problem. To invoke George Bush into the mix is the ultimate in hubris. Elect more Democrats? Are you kidding?

Done from Oak Park  

Posted: May 9th, 2014 11:17 AM

"Jack, you want to send a message to Democrats? Here's how you send a message: vote for Democrats, top to bottom. You will send two clear messages. One, you want Democrats to fix this mess without looking for Republicans to provide bipartisan "political cover." Two, you support President Obama and you trust Democrats to provide Democratic solutions that protect working families and help people most in need. You support educating our children and putting people back to work." How's that working?

Paul from River Forest, IL  

Posted: May 9th, 2014 9:19 AM

Don Harmon is part of the problem. He is a politician and an Illinois politician. Whether Democrat or Republican if Rome was burning, which it is, he would say it's just cloudy outside. He is empowered by his position. Illinois is a corrupt state headed for the dump and I will be so happy the day I leave here for a better life.


Posted: January 16th, 2011 7:37 AM

Harmon and Dems Need to read this. Dem. Gov in Washington proposes CUTs need to be made to budget http://seattletimes.nwsource.com/html/localnews/2013948689_gregoire16m.html

kathleen from OP  

Posted: January 14th, 2011 2:05 PM

Sharon, Illinois will be happy to accept your extra check for its unconscionable deficit since you enjoy paying high taxes. Mr. Harmon, it sounds as if you only represent those who agree with your views. What exactly are you doing to cut pension spending and the coddling of unions?


Posted: January 14th, 2011 1:59 PM

DeJordy, I agree with your assessment. However, we in the area have a very influential state Sen in Harmon. He is PART of the Leadership. WHAT is his reasoning - he needs to explain in a PUBLIC Forum why he can not get the State to cut expenses. To listen to the People he works for - the Taxpayers.


Posted: January 14th, 2011 1:03 PM

The Democrats are owned by the government unions, which are destroying the state. They are a greedy self-interest group like any other, forcing a large majority of us to pay for the 5 percent.


Posted: January 14th, 2011 12:41 PM

GREAT, but where are the cuts to the WASTEFFUL spending in Illinois. Everyone knows that Spending skyrocketed under Gov Rod (He handed out money as if it were raining $$$) Where is the VISION and Plan to Bring meaningful JOBS to Illinois? Sharon - what do you do for a living that you do not mind and are not concerned about paying MORE taxes to a Wasteful and deceitful State?

Sharon Brown from Oak Park  

Posted: January 14th, 2011 12:13 PM

I am honored to pay taxes for the services and privileges we get by living in this country. We currently have a low rate in Illinois and I agree with raising taxes. It will help our teachers and other public services. I think the tax structure is not fair and needs to be adjusted to reflect a more equitable distribution of taxable income. Loopholes are a problem. I believe we have a good country and state because we have participated in our democracy and that includes paying taxes.

Mary Ellen Eads from Oak Park  

Posted: January 8th, 2011 4:15 PM

It doesn't matter who is making the proposal to eliminate the 5% property tax credit andincrease the personal state income tax to 5.25 percent. The property tax change will hurt many Oak Parkers, as Oak Park property taxes are exceptionally high and getting higher this spring. The income tax proposal is unduly regressive and will fall most heavily not on the wealthy but on middle class earners-those whom President Obama has been trying to protect. This proposal needs to be much more progressive

Albert from RF  

Posted: January 8th, 2011 8:40 AM

Eric from Oak Park, it is nice that you are fond of Dan Harmon. He wants to send you and all of us a post New Years Gift. As a thank you for supporting him. A 75% increase in the Individual rate he is supporting - so HE can keep his Leadership post in the Senate. Contact Harmon and tell him how you feel, at (708) 848-2002 and email at dharmon@senatedem.ilga.gov

Eric Davis from Oak Park  

Posted: October 22nd, 2010 4:07 PM

John Ryan, you know not what of you speak. Don is an honorable man, and a native Oak Parker by the way, one of us. Having spoken with many members of the legislature I can tell you he's practially the poster child for integrity and honesty. I wish he had more company in that regard, but you're just wrong. I insist you apologize to a very good person, one of the smartest guys I know in government or out, a decent T-ball coach, and a dedicated public servant who sacrifices a great deal for us.

Tom from River Forest  

Posted: October 22nd, 2010 9:37 AM

DecimusJudging by the level of intelligence exhibited in his post, I am not sure that Mr. Ryan has the opposable thumb necessary to manipulate the large crayon. My guess is that he used finger paint.

Decimus from Oak Park   

Posted: October 22nd, 2010 7:56 AM

@Mr. Ryan--I am truly underwhelmed by the depth of your analysis, just make sure your crayon is the big, fat kind so you can see the pretty colors. A reasoned analysis of the current fiscal crisis points to but one conclusion--it cannot be solved with only cuts or only a tax increase. This, I believe, was Mr. Harmon's point. The real scumbags are those who obstruct a solution to the problem, like Bill Brady, and then cry about the results. Like Mr. Crowe, you are equally wrong, Mr. Ryan.


Posted: October 22nd, 2010 7:02 AM

Moody%u2019s Investors Service thinks so highly of the %u201Cresponsible borrowing%u201D and fiscal policies of the Democratic majority it has downgraded Illinois%u2019 bond rating several times. Illinois is tied with California for the worst credit rating of any state in the US.Under the current fiscal policy, Illinois%u2019 credit rating may drop so low it won%u2019t be able to borrow from any financial institution except the Outfit and Mexican drug cartels.Keep up the good work Senator Harmon.

John Ryan from Oak Park  

Posted: October 21st, 2010 7:15 PM

Nice try, Don, but you are a politician and have no credibility. You're all a bunch of corrupt scumbags.

This guy is a joke.....  

Posted: October 20th, 2010 10:18 AM

Simple question for the Assistant Senate Majority Leader: Where is the $5m owed by the State to District 97? Can we get an straight answer please?

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