EAST MOLINE — Democratic gubernatorial candidate Bob Daiber said he could change the economic direction of Illinois through a progressive income tax model, by paying down pension debt and through increased funding for schools.
In a meeting Tuesday with the Dispatch-Argus editorial board, Mr. Daiber said if he is elected governor, the first thing he would do is address leftover debt from Illinois’ two-year budget impasse.
“The most pressing issue we have to take care of is the backlog of unpaid bills,” he said. “I would ask to bond this $9 million of unpaid bills and pay them within 90 days of becoming governor. That’s the way we begin to put Illinois in the right direction. We need to refinance our debt. If I could refinance this debt at 1 to 2 percent, we could save the tax payers $750 million. We paid in excess of $1.2 billion in interest last year on unpaid bills.”
Mr. Daiber alleged the state’s debt hasn’t been refinanced because there are people connected to government who are profiting from the situation. As a former two-term Madison County Board member, he said not having a budget would not have been tolerated.
As governor, he would overhaul the state’s tax system in favor of a progressive income tax model. People making $25,000 or less per year would pay a base rate of 1 percent in income tax; those earning between $25,001 and $44,999 per year would pay 2.25 percent; those making $45,000 to $149,999 would pay 3.75 percent; incomes of $150,000 to $999,999 would pay 5 percent, and those making more than $1 million would pay the top rate of 6 percent.
“I think the state needs to leave its system of taxation because it’s not working,” he said. “When you don’t have enough revenue to operate the state, something’s not working. I set my progressive tax model with a base of $25,000, from 1 percent to 6 percent. I did my research and based it according to our neighboring states. The model asks the wealthy to pay more and it helps those who don’t make as much. It’s fair.”
By closing loopholes that protect the wealthy, Mr. Daiber predicts the state will gain an additional $500 million in revenue. To enact the progressive income tax model, he would ask for a constitutional amendment to change the tax law.
Mr. Daiber, 61, is in his 10th year as the regional superintendent of schools for Madison County. He was previously a city council member, township supervisor, county board member, chairman of the county planning and development committee and president of the Regional Superintendents Association.
He earned his bachelor’s and master’s degrees in education from Eastern Illinois University, and his Ph.D. in education from Southern Illinois University-Edwardsville. He was a career and technical teacher for 28 years. He and his wife, Karen, have two adult sons in college.
As a longtime member of the Illinois Education Association, Mr. Daiber said, as governor, he will protect the bargaining rights of unions. He opposes Gov. Bruce Rauner’s proposal that union members should be allowed to opt out of paying dues.
Mr. Daiber said he would use his 38 years of experience in public education to make changes to the overall education system, including offering incentives to school districts to consolidate.
“The first appropriations bill I will sign every year as governor will be to fund schools,” he said.
He would end PARCC (Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers) testing in schools; reinstate reading coaches, focusing on third-grade students and younger; and advocate for more career and technical classes in high school.
“We’re in the second year of PARCC testing and still don’t have the scores, so what good are they? I am not an advocate for data-driven curriculum.”
To tackle the state’s pension debt, he proposes an “aggressive” 1 percent tax on income or a large bond. When the early retirement option was allowed to sunset, it cost the state an additional $432 million a year in pension obligations, he said.
“That never should have happened when you’ve got a pension system already in trouble. I don’t agree with the governor’s proposal to do a cost shift (over) four years. It’s going to be the biggest property tax increase you’ve ever seen schools ask for. Under my progressive tax model, I’ll be able to meet the pension obligation.”
Another option for revenue is the legalization of marijuana. As governor, he would repeal the a law prohibiting the growing of hemp and impose a 37 percent tax on sales.
“I think there’s serious revenue and industry to be grown here. Our neighbors would come to Illinois to buy it from us.”
Mr. Daiber noted he is the only one of the six gubernatorial candidates not from Cook County and the only one from southern Illinois. The field includes businessman J.B. Pritzker, businessman Chris Kennedy, State Sen. Daniel Biss, non-profit director Tio Hardiman, and physician Robert Marshall.
Mr. Daiber has chosen Chicago social worker Jonathan Todd as his running mate.
“We don’t have to be governed by one county,” Mr. Daiber said. “I would advocate for all of Illinois. There is part of this state that feels it’s unrepresented. People in this race realize that my presence is a threat. I’m the other option, I’m the other dimension to the state of Illinois.
“I’m a hard worker. I’m interested in doing the right thing for the people of Illinois.”