Biss announces governor bid, puts budget onus on the rich
State Sen. Daniel Biss (D-Evanston) wants Illinois to finally pass a budget and says the best way to do that is to strap it to the backs of the state's most wealthy citizens.
“We got to fix our tax system,” Biss said as he announced his gubernatorial bid on Monday. “We have to do it. That starts by getting rid of this provision in the constitution that was put there almost 50 years ago by special interests that says that we can’t tax the wealthiest Illinois residents, who have been the beneficiaries of economic growth in the last two generations. If we get rid of that and tax the wealthy fairly … we’ll be in a position to have the kind of budget we ought to have.”
Biss’ opponents might hear some hypocrisy in his words, considering he has allegedly taken more than $260,000 in donations from oft-maligned Speaker of the House Mike Madigan (D-Chicago). He also supported Madigan for speaker and backed a failed budget proposal last year that was $7 billion in the red and unable to pass in the Democrat-controlled state Senate.
In an office room with workers seated behind him, Biss, a state representative for the 17th District before being elected to the Senate in 2012, pledged to fix a system that has compelled many residents to leave Illinois.
“Right now, it is a unique moment in our state,” Biss said. “Unique, in part, because of a unique crisis we are going through. We haven’t had a budget for more than 20 months and this crisis is causing jobs and people leaving Illinois.”
When asked about career politicians, most notably Madigan, Biss claimed to go against the political machine.
“I’ve been clear a long time that Madigan has been around too long,” he said. “One of the first things that I did in Springfield was put in a constitutional amendment that says that all legislative leaders -- not just the speaker, but the Senate president and the minority leader -- should only be able to serve 10 years.”
Biss himself has led a super political action committee called Leading Illinois For Tomorrow (LIFT) that received thousands of dollars from Madigan's campaign committee and his supporters; Citizens for Lisa Madigan; gubernatorial candidate Chris Kennedy; and Chicago financier Michael Sacks, who reportedly contributed more than $2.5 million to LIFT.
Still, Biss called his platform a movement for the people, perhaps senior citizens most of all.
“We need access to care for seniors across the state,” Biss said. “We need to make sure that seniors are able to access care that allows them to stay in their homes … in a way that is sound and humane.”
This, too, might cause chagrin among his critics, as Biss supported legislation in 2006 that would cost the state an extra $86.8 billion annually by raising the minimum wage of personal assistants and home health care workers from $13 to $15 per hour.
Despite his criticism of Rauner, Biss said the the problems Illinois faces cannot be distilled to one man.
“The problems we face in Illinois are not about a person,” he said. “They are about a broken system. What we really need to do is fix the system, and that is why I am running for governor: to build the movement we need to take our system back from the billionaires and the machine politicians whose voices are heard while the rest of us are locked out.”
Largely overlooking the inability of the Democrat-controlled General Assembly to come to agreement on a budget, Biss argued that residents have suffered greatly for two years under Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner’s failed policies and the budget stalemate.
“This is an abomination,” Biss said. “No state has been in this situation before. As many problems as Illinois has been through before Bruce Rauner became governor, understand this: Bruce Rauner became governor, and Illinois has now gone through a budget stalemate it has never experienced before in its history. It is a failure and it is wrong, and people are hurting in every corner of the state.”
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