By Sarah Illiatovitch-Goldman
February 6, 2018
In 2015, Illinois signed into law the Illinois Secure Choice Savings Program Act—one of Daniel’s signature achievements.
With Secure Choice, Illinois became the first state to fully require employers to offer their workers retirement benefits, benefiting as many as 2.5 million Illinoisans according to the Pension Rights Center. In the three years since its enactment, Secure Choice has made a huge impact on the lives of working people and now serves as a model for states across the nation.
Secure Choice works by making saving for retirement these folks’ default option, rather than putting the burden on employees to know to opt in, preserving individual choice while streamlining the process for retirement savings.
It is the perfect combination of individual autonomy and government security. It allows individuals to opt out at any time, to increase or decrease how much they are saving, to transfer the account from job to job, and to invest in whatever funds they like. Or, if they prefer, it allows for a more hands off approach, while guaranteeing that money from each paycheck is being safeguarded.
Most importantly, Secure Choice encourages participation—something optional savings programs do not. Before Secure Choice, half of Illinois’ private sector workers had no access to employer sponsored retirement plans.
Both President Obama and Senator John McCain included automatic enrollment plans in their 2008 presidential campaign platforms. And many states have voiced desire for such a plan as well. However, no one other than Daniel has made it happen.
How did he do it? He refused to take “No” for an answer. He turned the insurance lobby’s greed into fuel. And he personalized his approach to everyone he talked with about Secure Choice.
Daniel worked closely with labor leaders and not-for-profit lobbyists representing low wage earners to shape a bill that best addressed the needs of working families. For two years, he visited every legislator in the Illinois House and Senate, often traveling to their home constituencies around the state, listening to their concerns and getting to know what they cared about. With some, he debated nitty-gritty policy. With others he focused on the human side.
He took a bipartisan approach. He welcomed opposition and debate, filing successive amendments for each compromise agreed to by his Republican and Democratic colleagues.
Daniel prioritized spreading the word to Illinois residents at town halls during summer recess. His mission was to help the public understand it could mean personal crisis to them if they failed to save enough for retirement – and that with Secure Choice they could avert catastrophe.
As much as anything, it was Daniel’s passion that swayed people, from legislators to ordinary citizens.
Secure Choice passed the House by a comfortable margin and went into effect in 2017. Because of Daniel’s determination, we now have a retirement savings system in Illinois that’s a blueprint for other states. Thanks to Daniel Biss, we have an innovative solution to a serious problem.
This wasn’t just a publicity stunt under spotlight of the gubernatorial campaign. This is what happens when a passionate state senator is determined to make a difference in the lives of working people.
This is who Daniel is. This is how Daniel works. This is why Daniel Biss should be the next Governor of Illinois.
To learn more about Secure Choice and Daniel’s fight to bring automatic retirement savings to Illinois, read the coverage in the New York Times here.