News Local/State

Senator, Gubernatorial Hopeful Biss Visits Champaign

State Senator Daniel Biss of Evanston

State Senator Daniel Biss of Evanston talks to a gathering at Quality in Champaign Thursday. Jeff Bossert/Illinois Public Media

State Senator Daniel Biss wants to beat Bruce Rauner in next year’s gubernatorial election. But the Evanston Democrat doesn’t blame all of the state’s problems on the GOP incumbent. The former University of Chicago mathemetician addressed a gathering of 50 people in a downtown Champaign bar on Thursday, three days after another candidate for governor, J.B. Pritzker, was in the area.

Biss told the group that the Democratic governors who came before Rauner didn’t do anything to fix what he considers an unjust tax system.

"The Democrats had been in power in Springfield for 12 years, and yet, we still had the fourth most unfair tax system in the country — where we taxed the middle class and the working poor more, and the richest Illinois residents, who have been the beneficiaries of two generations of all the economic growth aren’t being asked to pay their fair share.”

Biss supports a graduated, or progressive, income tax --- in direct contrast to Rauner, who supports the state’s current flat tax system. He also wants to peg property taxes rates to income — he says that would enable free tuition for Illinois’ community college students.

Biss says Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan’s "concentration of power" after 32 years in the office is not good for the state. He says a constitutional amendment he filed when first elected to the Senate would change that.

“You can’t serve as speaker, or senate president, or minority leader, for more than 10 years," he said. "I just believed it from day one that that concentration of power is unhealthy. And I’m prepared to say that now, even in a Democratic primary, because it’s true. And I believe in being honest, even about our own warts as a party.”

Biss also attempted to link Governor Bruce Rauner to President Donald Trump, after Rauner said recently he would veto a House bill that ensures abortion remains legal in Illinois if Roe versus Wade is overturned.

Taking questions from the group, Biss indicated his support for Senate Bill 316, which would authorize the legal use of marijuana in Illinois. He also said it should be easier to add qualifying conditions within Illinois' medical marijuana pilot program.

The Senator was a guest of the local Illini Democrats and Champaign County Young Democrats. He's one of five Democratic hopefuls hoping to unseat Rauner in fall of 2018.