ROCK ISLAND — If elected governor, state Sen. Daniel Biss said Wednesday that he intends to help working class families by raising the minimum wage, getting rid of the flat income tax and fixing the pension system.
The Democratic gubernatorial candidate was introduced by Rock Island County Board member Kai Swanson during a town hall meeting at the Laborers’ Local Union 309, 2835 7th Ave., Wednesday night.
“Sen. Biss is not a millionaire. It’s important to raise funds,” Mr. Swanson said. “This is a person who understands what going without a (state) budget is like.”
Sen. Biss told the crowd of more than 50 people that Gov. Bruce Rauner was to blame for much of the state’s dysfunction.
“Bruce Rauner is a dismal failure,” Sen. Biss said. “We’re supposed to be a blue state, but yet have one of the most aggressive tax codes in the nation. We can’t adequately fund our schools. We’ve had a broken system that hasn’t been working for decades.”
Abbigail McWilliams asked Sen. Biss if he supported raising the minimum wage to $15 an hour.
“This is something I’m fighting hard for on every level, ” Sen. Biss said. “When everybody has more money in their pockets, it’s good for the economy. The middle class hasn’t had a raise for generations.”
Glenview Middle School teacher Jim Adamson asked Sen. Biss what he thought about Governor Rauner’s veto of Senate Bill 1 on Tuesday.
The legislation, passed in May, would rewrite the state’s school funding formula, giving needier districts more money by revising how property taxes are distributed. But Gov. Rauner objected to the inclusion of $215 million in pension money for Chicago teachers.
“The governor vetoed the bill because he was in a bad mood because he lost the budget fight,” Sen. Biss said. “Because he vetoed it, he’s pretending it’s a Chicago bailout. The bill is a good bill. I was proud to vote for the bill, and I’ll be proud to override the veto.”
When asked by a Dispatch•Argus•QCOnline reporter if he regretted putting schools in potential crisis without a backup plan by keeping the bill off the governor’s desk too long, Sen. Biss said the plan didn’t have the effect Democrats had hoped for.
“Obviously the plan that was executed didn’t work very well,” he said. “The question is, what would it have taken to get grown-up, mature negotiations between Democrats and Republicans? The idea was, let’s just not send him the bill and we can talk it out, and if we come to a different agreement, we’ll send him a different bill. That didn’t work.
“Do I regret it? I regret it if sending (the bill) to the governor would have resulted in a path to a different conversation. The governor has chosen to buy people instead of try to solve problems. There are opportunities for compromise and agreement. I’m not optimistic if we had sent him the bill two months ago we would have found that moment.”
Sen. Biss said the state could begin fixing its pension crisis by requiring payments into the pension system.
“As a state, we did not make the required payments into the pension system. A pension system only works if you make the payments.”
Mr. Swanson thanked Sen. Biss for taking time to stop in Rock Island.
“This is a very important decision that we have to make as Illinoisans,” Mr. Swanson said. “I think it’s time to bring in somebody who’s smart and thoughtful.”