PEORIA — Reforms and a commitment to tough choices over the long term are crucial to fixing the state's financial woes, gubernatorial candidate Daniel Biss told local Democrats on Tuesday morning.
The state senator from Evanston held a question-and-answer session at the Peoria Labor Temple and cast blame widely for a budget billions of dollars out of balance and a stalemate in crafting a spending plan that is now approaching two years.
"Bruce Rauner has failed, and we need a new governor," Biss said.
But, he also noted, "When Bruce Rauner took office, we had a lot of trouble in Illinois. We're the victims of 30 years of broken machine politics. What we need now in Illinois is a movement of the people willing to rise up and withstand all the power of that money and the political machine and build a government that works for us."
He affirmed in no uncertain terms that he believes House Speaker Michael Madigan has overstayed his welcome, and pointed out that he'd introduced legislation limiting to a decade the amount of time someone could serve in such a post.
"Mike Madigan has been speaker for too long. He's too powerful," Biss said. "That's, I think, holding the Democratic Party back, and it's also holding the state back, in my opinion."
Biss also repeatedly emphasized his belief that the state needs to change its tax system to one that taxes higher earners at higher rates.
"We need a fairer tax system so we stop overtaxing the middle class and ask the richest residents who have been the beneficiaries of generations of economic growth to finally pay their share so we can afford to invest in schools not just in a few parts of Illinois but everywhere in Illinois, so there's economic opportunity everywhere in Illinois, so we invest in job creation where we need more economic opportunity," he said.
And, he said, the path back to fiscal solvency isn't easy, since it involves repairing damage sustained over decades.
"There's not going to be an easy path out of this" Biss said. "I don't want to pretend it's going to be easy, I don't want to pretend it's going to be quick. It's going to require a lot of discipline, it's going to require a lot of hard work, it's going to require sticking to a plan for a number of years even though that's going to be frustrating for some people."
Biss also stressed the state's obligation to those who might lose coverage under health care reforms being pushed by the Trump administration and the Republican Congress, and insisted the costs associated with that were one more reason for the state to get its fiscal house in order.
He is running against an already large field that includes JFK nephew Chris Kennedy, venture capitalist and philanthropist J.B. Pritzker, Chicago Alderman Ameya Pawar, and Madison County regional school superintendent Bob Daiber.
The primary election will be in March 2018.
Chris Kaergard covers politics and government. He can be reached at email@example.com or 686-3255. Follow him on Twitter @ChrisKaergard.