* 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.