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Biss calls pop tax “regressive,” but won’t say if he wants it repealed

Tuesday, Sep 26, 2017

* Back in August, Sen. Daniel Biss dodged a direct question about whether he favored repealing the Cook County pop tax. He actually kind of rationalized why the tax was approved in his response

We have a tax code that was written by billionaires and political insiders for their own benefit. Because the system doesn’t work for middle class Illinoisans, local governments are placed in a no-win situation to generate revenue.

* Bill Cameron tried to pin Biss down during his Connected to Chicago show

CAMERON: And let’s talk about the bill to repeal the pop tax the penny per ounce pop tax up here in Cook County, much hated because it raises the price so much and is so visible. Might have Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle who broke the tide to enact it, might be in trouble in the next year’s election. How would you vote on the pop tax repealer?

BISS: Well, listen, here’s the problem here. The problem is the pop tax is a regressive tax like we’ve discussed and yet the state doesn’t leave the county with a lot of options. And the truth is that local revenue sources in Illinois have been regressive whether it’s the pop tax, or any kind of other fees like this that tend to nickel and dime the poor or the property tax which is also regressive. OK? And so, in my opinion what the state needs to do is to have a comprehensive tax reform that enables local governments to fund their operations in a way that’s actually fair in a way that actually makes sense. And so a lot of people are going after Cook County now and making political hay out of this. What I would say is they didn’t have a lot of better options. So, let’s create better options for them. Let’s work on a comprehensive tax reform plan in the state of Illinois, use that to have a modern 2017 tax code, not a 1970 or 1920 tax code. And then with that tax code bring in adequate revenue from the people whose incomes have ballooned in the last two generations who can genuinely afford to pay. And then quit with this nickling and diming of poor people.

CAMERON: Was that a yes you’d vote for the repealer of the pop tax?

BISS: I’m for comprehensive tax reform. That’s the right way forward. And I think the kind of half measures that address one problem, but don’t actually fix the root, don’t really help us very much. Let me give another example. Property taxes in Illinois are way too high, way too high. And Bruce Rauner has been pushing for a property tax freeze that doesn’t actually solve the problem. And so, the Bruce Rauner property tax freeze would just hurt schools, hurt local governments. I’m not for that. I’m for a bill that cuts property taxes by reforming our tax code and funding our schools and the way they should have been funded for decades. And that’s something that we’ve been talking about for a long time but no one’s had the guts to do. I’m running for governor to finally actually get these things done, so we have a tax code that works for the rest of us in a school finance system that works with the rest of us and a state government that genuinely works for all of us.

CAMERON: That’s state Senator Dan Biss. Daniel, thanks for coming in.

BISS: Thanks so much for having me.

CAMERON: Who I think is for repealing the pop tax, but I’m not sure.

I don’t think he is, Bill.

* Meanwhile, Biss faced more questions about his voting record on the Golden Mean with Michael Golden podcast

GOLDEN: Ok, two last questions. One raw policy and lawmaking and then one raw politics about the campaign and how you’re doing. So, look you clearly have a progressive vision, you know your campaign you said it’s a campaign about Medicare for all, it’s a campaign about a $15 minimum wage, about college affordability and tax fairness.

But in Springfield though, it has been noted that you’ve cast some tough votes. Sometimes were at odds with progressives.

At one point $6 billion in cuts as part of Medicaid reform and if the reporting’s accurate because I didn’t follow this legislation but it strips some public employees of collective bargaining even though I know that you are big on workers’ rights and you take on the governors of Wisconsin and not just Illinois but Wisconsin and Michigan too in terms of them trying to reduce the strength of collective bargaining power so I guess it’s a two-part question Daniel. The first is talk about sometimes you have to make tough votes and compromise in order to get anything done and if you will you may comment on a couple of those things I just noted in that recent legislation.

BISS: I mean, listen, you do have to compromise and I think that, frankly, the state of Illinois is burning in part because we have a governor who’s unwilling to compromise, who’s unwilling to find paths forward to work with the other side and I think that’s not a constructive way to do to make progress.

Now what I will say is that I have been focused in my time in the legislator on finding ways forward, on advancing progressive causes, and on compromising when necessary, and one legislator doesn’t have the ability to change the terms of the debate. And so, I have voted for things that I love, I have voted for things that were tough compromises and I’ve voted for those things to help move the state forward.

But I also think it’s important to say we have not asked all of the right questions in Illinois, and the most important question that we should be asking is how to reform our tax system so that we can actually have the ability to afford the government that we need. And since I first began running for state Rep. and through my time in the legislature and certainly now in my campaign for governor I’ve been fighting very hard to repeal that flat tax provision in the Illinois constitution, which has made it impossible for us to ask the richest residents to pay their fair share. And because of that inability we’ve had devastating budget problems throughout my time in the legislator. Those devastating problems have resulted in unpleasant compromises that I’ve sometimes voted for to move the ball forward but in the meantime, we need to actually fix the underlying problem and to fix the underlying problem we need to fix our tax code.

- Posted by Rich Miller        

29 Comments
  1. - Curl of the Burl - Tuesday, Sep 26, 17 @ 4:07 pm:

    Biss is not ready for primetime.


  2. - a drop in - Tuesday, Sep 26, 17 @ 4:09 pm:

    Our system of government (National and State) has turned into a de facto Parliamentary system with the “true believers” functioning as more effective whips then the assigned Whips in the House/Senate. This does not bode well for accomplishing much of anything.


  3. - City Zen - Tuesday, Sep 26, 17 @ 4:10 pm:

    “We have a tax code that was written by billionaires and political insiders for their own benefit.”

    Can Biss provide the long list of billionaires that enacted the state income tax in 1969?


  4. - Ron - Tuesday, Sep 26, 17 @ 4:14 pm:

    We have a constitution written by and for government workers.


  5. - Blue dog dem - Tuesday, Sep 26, 17 @ 4:17 pm:

    And yet this guy want a medicaid buy in for all?


  6. - wordslinger - Tuesday, Sep 26, 17 @ 4:21 pm:

    –CAMERON: Who I think is for repealing the pop tax, but I’m not sure. –

    If he was, he would say so clearly and loudly, as that is a very popular position.


  7. - Rich Man - Tuesday, Sep 26, 17 @ 4:23 pm:

    Dan Biss is a wealthy elitist who doesn’t realize that the beverage tax has to be repealed.


  8. - JoeMaddon - Tuesday, Sep 26, 17 @ 4:25 pm:

    This “wealthy” Biss theme popping up in drive by comments is amusing. And blatantly false.


  9. - PJ - Tuesday, Sep 26, 17 @ 4:25 pm:

    Rich Man -

    Uh … wealthy? Have you not seen the dude’s tax returns? He and his wife jointly made about 60k last year.


  10. - Northsider - Tuesday, Sep 26, 17 @ 4:28 pm:

    Rich Man: Thanks for playing. Try harder.


  11. - Blue dog dem - Tuesday, Sep 26, 17 @ 4:35 pm:

    This guy Biss will say anything for a vote. Bet he stll thinks the CBO gives the ACA a passing grade without implementing the cadillac tax.


  12. - 47th Ward - Tuesday, Sep 26, 17 @ 4:40 pm:

    No Toni, really, I swear, I said it was “impressive,” not regressive. I don’t know how that got so twisted.


  13. - walker - Tuesday, Sep 26, 17 @ 5:33 pm:

    Biss can tell the truth in ways that make you stop listening.


  14. - Anon22 - Tuesday, Sep 26, 17 @ 5:47 pm:

    =jointly made $60k last year=

    Biss is known to be independently wealthy from his time at UC as a math professor. Comptroller Munger holding up legislative paychecks may have put MOST legislators in that position last year… Let’s just say Dan Biss did not become an Uber driver to help pay the bills. The man comes from an upper middle-class background.


  15. - TopHatMonocle - Tuesday, Sep 26, 17 @ 5:54 pm:

    So. Many. Words.

    Blah blah millionaires and billionaires blah blah we need to fix topic X blah blah and make topic X work for all of us.

    Do Biss’ efforts to sound smart alienate the average voter? Probably.


  16. - Responsa - Tuesday, Sep 26, 17 @ 6:06 pm:

    It was swell of Toni to put Biss and all the other Gov. hopefuls in a bind right when they’re trying to gain traction and appeal to voters. They must absolutely dread having to go into interviews knowing they’ll be asked this specific question. Nice work, Toni.


  17. - BissLiss - Tuesday, Sep 26, 17 @ 6:09 pm:

    Is Dan Biss is going to tell us he grew upon a trailor park and has to walk to school in his bare feet.


  18. - walker - Tuesday, Sep 26, 17 @ 6:40 pm:

    The RichBiss trolls are out in force this afternoon. It is pure nonsense.

    Now who might want Biss to be lumped with JB, Kennedy, Trump and Rauner?


  19. - Anon III - Tuesday, Sep 26, 17 @ 8:08 pm:

    You have got to give Biss credit. He is out there taking the questions and the punches. I don’t read a lot about the other gov. candidates doing the same. Apparently, some have trouble even showing up.

    It’s a long way to March.


  20. - Biss is blogging - Tuesday, Sep 26, 17 @ 8:53 pm:

    Notice when someone makes reference Daniel Biss and his privileged life the response is immediate to the contrary. The blogger even knows how much Daniel Biss paid for his house and what his tax returns are . Is it possible someone very very very close to this is monitoring this blog?


  21. - Ron - Tuesday, Sep 26, 17 @ 9:56 pm:

    Biss has no chance after the Ramirez debacle.

    Toni’s tax is terrible.


  22. - Periwinkle - Tuesday, Sep 26, 17 @ 10:09 pm:

    1. Everything Biss says is true. It’s not hard to understand that the pop tax is both regressive and a not-terrible way to raise revenue in the absence of a sane income tax scheme.

    2. This “Biss is rich” attack is hilarious, especially when he’s running against a Pritzker and Kennedy.

    Pritzker and Kennedy had choices and chose to grow their fortunes. Biss chose to become a public servant. I know who I’d rather have running the state.


  23. - cannon649 - Tuesday, Sep 26, 17 @ 10:09 pm:

    The tax is horrible and anyone who can not it could not be considered.


  24. - Three Dimensional Checkers - Tuesday, Sep 26, 17 @ 10:38 pm:

    Yeah, it’s a dodge, but it’s an artful one. I think what he is saying is true. The flat income tax provision in the Illinois Constitution does force state government to use regressive taxes to raise revenue, and that impacts funding local government too. The overall message of tax fairness rings true to my ears even if he is dodging a hot political issue.

    When he stays focused on Illinois government, Biss really speaks from a place of genuine knowledge and concern about the state. It comes across much stronger in person too. That strength will keep him competitive up until election day, I believe.


  25. - Sonny - Tuesday, Sep 26, 17 @ 10:49 pm:

    Free tip: When you are running for office and 80-90% of people oppose something, find a way to take their side.


  26. - Amalia - Tuesday, Sep 26, 17 @ 11:23 pm:

    I love how “progressives” pull out the “this tax is regressive” mantra. any percentage tax charged on sales is that. aren’t you supposed to be a math prof? and if it really were regressive, it would most negatively affect the poorest citizens. have they fixed that people on Federal assistance pay the tax thing? because it was not charged before. hard to keep up with the mismanagement of this tax. It’s a bad tax on so many levels. just say that, Miss.


  27. - Amalia - Tuesday, Sep 26, 17 @ 11:23 pm:

    obviously my typing is horrible….say that, Miss.


  28. - DuPage Bard - Wednesday, Sep 27, 17 @ 1:10 am:

    Biss just end this.


  29. - Retired Educator - Wednesday, Sep 27, 17 @ 6:20 am:

    Another day, another silly stance. He needs to go get the petitions for his old job. He isn’t ready to sit in the big chair.


Sorry, comments for this post are now closed.


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