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Only Oswego

Letter: Scare a Politician, Write in Russ 'Odin' Harrison

Oct 31, 2014 04:26PM ● By Steven Jack

Russ “Odin” Harrison

Years ago, just after the end of the Viet Nam war, I was a 19 year old Non-Commissioned Officer in the Army Infantry (9th Division “The Old Reliables” .)  My platoon Sergeant came to my squad and I and proposed a situation to test my leadership skills. He asked, in front of my troops, the following question: “You must select one of your men to man an observation post. That man will undoubtedly be killed or captured. Which one do you choose?”  My first choice was myself, as I was trained to never demand of my subordinates anything I myself was not willing to do. I was wrong. As the squad leader, I did not have that option as I was responsible for the mission, the men, and finally myself. As I went through every squad member and justified my decision, each choice was vetoed. There was no correct answer. The question was designed to teach leadership and decision making, and to show that despite no perfect answer, issues must be addressed, decisions must be made, actions must be taken, and responsibility for those actions must be accepted… and sometimes people will be adversely affected and relationships strained or damaged. This is the burden of leadership.

Illinois has been lacking in Leadership for quite some time now. Issues have NOT been addressed, decisions have NOT been made, and actions have NOT been taken. Responsibility has been continually shifted to others and we are now in a situation where we have no more road to “kick the can down”. I firmly believe that this predicament has been caused by several factors, none of which are being addressed by any candidate for the 97th District State Representative position made vacant by Tom Cross’s decision to campaign for State Treasurer. 

One of these factors is the situation in which WE, the taxpayers, pay a fulltime wage for part time legislators. How can a legislator earning a $70,000 a year tax payer funded salary, plus benefits and staffing funds, be effective if they are also working full time in their own business or profession? Yet each candidate tells us they are leaders because they devote so many hours, 50 plus per week, making their business or organization successful. How can we expect them to represent us when they have such burdensome obligations to another endeavor? The answer is…we can’t. It simply doesn’t work and we are now seeing the disaster brought on by this part time approach to dealing with the issues negatively impacting our state and citizens.

Another factor that contributes to our problems is the insistence that each candidate strictly adhere to their National Party mandates…and their party’s campaign funders. The GOP candidate, Mark Batinick, opposes raising the minimum wage, advocates repealing the Affordable Care Act and reversing the marriage equality act, all while lowering corporate taxes. Both Mr. Batinick and the Democrat Candidate, Moira Dunn, advocate for instituting charter schools and distributing vouchers to allow parents to send their kids to better performing schools.  My question is…who pays to expand those schools to handle more students? Who pays for those vouchers? What will happen when those schools overload and their performance decreases? Lowering corporate taxes and the education issues are ones that the GOP candidate and the Democrat candidate both agree on. However...neither of those proposals is truly feasible and attempts to institute them would be an even greater burden to the tax payers and small businesses of Illinois. More importantly, what good does their approach to education and taxation accomplish if the results are employment paying low wages and dependency upon state assistance for basic needs? 

Any person with a calculator and a basic economics class can tell you that the best way to stimulate an economy and job growth is to put more money into that economy. Increasing wages is the most effective instrument to achieve this goal. However, that cannot be done without raising minimum wage and instituting graduated taxes upon corporations and higher income individuals. Currently, larger corporations have no such forced motivation to increase wages. If we raise taxes on corporations, then there is an intrinsic motivation for them to reduce that tax burden. They can do this by paying higher wages, investing in training and new facilities, and even making donations to community programs. But… there would be nothing to prevent corporations from reducing tax burden by simply increasing the top executive pay or allowing for huge bonuses, both of which are perfectly legal and common practice.This would be countered by a higher tax rate for higher income individuals and would offer some protection to our middle class families from having to absorb the cost of operations for the state via property, income, and sales tax increases. 

Neither candidate supports raising taxes because it’s a “job killer” or it would “harm our economy” or my favorite…”I’ll never get another corporate donation for my campaign...” Let’s call it what it is folks. Campaign donations demand something in return, and that something is increased corporate tax largess at the cost to us, THE PEOPLE. No candidate will increase taxes to their financial suppliers when unlimited campaign contributions are allowed.

2008 Illinois Dept of Revenue reports estimated that 2 out of 3 companies that filed income taxes in Illinois PAID NO TAXES! Since then, that number has not improved. In fact, some companies are even allowed to retain their employees’ taxes. Those employees then file for and receive tax refunds on monies that the state never even received. So, while on paper, Illinois has a moderately high tax on business, in reality it is one of the lowest effective aggregate corporate tax rates in the nation. This means that the burden for state revenue is born predominantly by individuals and small businesses, a situation that is both unfair and unsustainable. 

These tax breaks were created to stimulate job and economic growth in Illinois. The principles behind these actions are simple…give breaks to larger corporations in exchange for hiring more people and improving the local economy. Unfortunately, the track record for companies receiving these tax incentives is abysmal and no one is applying the “clawback” provisions of those agreements to recoup those unearned tax benefits. Governor Jim Edgar expressed concern about these incentives when he signed their approval during his tenure. He expressed fear that the burden for financing State operations would increasingly shift to small business and individuals, and he was right. The current system for taxation simply does not work, has not worked, and the proposals put forth by the other candidates will not work.

It is this lack of realistic solutions and the avoidance of committing to concrete, albeit undesirable, courses of action that led to my being recruited ( by people from both parties and independent voters) as a write-in candidate for the 97th Dist State Representative. I address these issues and many others on my web page ( For those that believe that a vote for a write-in candidate will not count…you are wrong. Those votes will be tallied as I am a duly registered and legal candidate. All you have to do is write my name on the line provided for write in candidates.

More importantly, those votes will send a message to the conventionally elected politicians that we, the PEOPLE of ILLINOIS, will no longer take back seat to National Party Agendas, Special Interest Groups and campaign financiers. It is WE, THE PEOPLE, not WE THE CORPORATIONS, that demand that “no business as usual” be halted and that action be taken, less our great State of Illinois continue in its’ death spiral towards insolvency.

Russ “Odin” Harrison, 97th Dist State Representative Candidate