To the editors:

Ben Joravsky’s article on IVI-IPO [Neighborhood News, July 6] discussed the dispute over whether to endorse Hartigan or Edgar. However, in his account of the endorsement session there was no reference to the substantive issues involved. His quotes on the abortion issue referred to the question period. In the debate itself this issue did not figure because the position of the two candidates is virtually identical.

As one of the two speakers supporting endorsement of Edgar my major point was Edgar’s support for extension of the temporary state income tax surcharge, which Hartigan opposes. Hartigan has campaigned against “fourteen years of tax and spend, tax and spend” despite the fact that Illinois ranks very low among the states in aid to education and very low likewise in the percentage of revenue that comes from state taxes rather than the inequitable locally levied property tax. At the meeting he combined his antitax demagogy with rhetoric about what he would do for early childhood education and other needed human services–all empty rhetoric, of course, given the fact that allowing the surtax to expire would diminish state revenue by half a billion dollars a year.

Hartigan referred to the increase in the state budget over 14 years from 10 to 26 billion dollars. The decline in the value of the dollar makes the 10 of 1976 equal to well over 20 today and the drastic decline in Federal aid to the states during Reagan’s two terms more than accounts for the rest. Under these circumstances Hartigan’s position on finances directly opposes everything which IVI-IPO supports in terms of funding needed human services.

In the 60s and 70s the Republican right wing criticized the Republican establishment for me-tooing the Democrats. A choice, not an echo, was the right wing’s cry and under Reagan they triumphed and carried out their program, whose fruits we have seen in redistribution of income from the poor to the rich, the wasting of enormous resources on a bloated military, and the leveraged buyout, insider trading and S&L scandals, while the industrial and technological foundations of the economy steadily weakened. As public awareness of the consequences increases, what is needed by the Democrats today is also to offer a choice, not an echo of Republican policies. This year, in New Jersey, newly elected Democratic Governor Jim Florio offered precisely such a choice. New Jersey has enacted a massive increase in state aid to poor school districts, financed by a steep rise in state tax rates on high incomes.

Supporting Hartigan represents exactly the kind of me-tooism that liberals don’t need. Certainly Edgar doesn’t stand for the kind of drastic program just described with reference to New Jersey. But when a Republican candidate sticks courageously to a position on taxes that is not supported by most of his own party, it offers liberals some leverage in seeking to implement their aims. Edgar’s election, together with the election to other state offices of such Democrats as Dawn Clark Netsch, who favors extension of the income tax surcharge, and Pat Quinn, who opposes the “Tax Accountability Amendment,” would send the Democratic majority in the Illinois General Assembly a message.

Automatic support of Democrats regardless of the stands they take would only serve to increase further the alienation of voters from the political process. The latest insult to our intelligence comes from Dick Phelan. In his campaign he has promised to hold the line on county property tax while achieving at the same time the miracle of expanding badly needed county health services. He has emphasized that as County Board President he would lobby for greater state aid. But when asked yesterday whether he favors extension of the temporary state income tax surcharge he refused to take a position. His declarations about health services are therefore worthless. Likewise his flipflops on Pincham are a greater insult to the voters than they are to Pincham himself. I hold no brief for the Harold Washington Party, but empty appeals to unity will not be an effective substitute for consistent courageous policies aimed at mobilizing the people behind a program that meets our needs.

Saul Mendelson

S. South Shore