State Senator Daniel Biss confers with MWRD Commissioner Debra Shore at the Main Street Metra Station, ready to greet commuters after announcing his bid for governor.               RoundTable photo

Calling for a movement to take Illinois back from “the billionaires and politicians,” State Senator Daniel Biss (D-Evanston), launched his campaign for governor of Illinois in a live Facebook stream on March 20.

The fact that the State of Illinois has not had a budget for more than 20 months “is an abomination, and people are hurting in every corner of the state,” Sen. Biss said. This mess, he said, was not caused solely by the present governor, Bruce Rauner, but by “30 years of broken politics.” Politicians, he said, “make decisions about us without our being in the room. … They fight each other and look out for themselves, instead of fighting for us. There’s a broken political culture in Springfield, and if we keep doing things the same way, we’re going to get more of the same failure. But it doesn’t have to be that way.”

A trained mathematician, Sen. Biss said his method is to solve problems, but what he saw was politicians more intent on causing problems for others.  “That’s why I’m running for governor of Illinois – because it’s time to start solving our problems. I’m running because we need a movement of the people to overcome the power of money and the machine, and take our state back,” he said.  

Reforming the tax code is high on his agenda. “In the long term, if we really want to fix our budget, we have to fix our tax system. We have to get rid of a provision in the Constitution that says we can’t tax the wealthy. We can’t afford not to.”

The current tax system allows the working poor and those in the middle class to pay more taxes than the most wealthy. Referring to the need to reform education funding, Sen. Biss said, “We can’t fix it without fixing our tax system. All the economic growth has gone to the upper classes.”

The Senator also criticized Gov. Rauner for not standing up for residents of Illinois on several issues: the protection of women’s rights in Illinois if Roe v. Wade is overturned; protection of undocumented residents from raids by the federal government; and protection of the 1.2 million Illinois residents who stand to lose health-care coverage if the Affordable Care Act is repealed.

Conceding that he has neither the backing of the Democratic political machine nor a billionaire’s political war chest, Sen. Biss said he is looking to build a movement of the people that would transform Illinois into a more caring and responsive state. “My responsibility is to work with everybody. … The politicians in Springfield are more attuned to what billionaires want than what people want. We want to build a movement around what people need.” The politicians and billionaires then would have to listen, he said.

Sen. Biss grew up in Bloomington, Ind., and moved to Chicago after completing his bachelor’s degree at Harvard University and his Ph.D. in mathematics at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. At the age of 25, he joined the University of Chicago mathematics faculty. While teaching, he said, he wished to confront the State’s most critical problems and to become more involved in his local community – first as an organizer and later as a candidate.

After his announcement, Sen. Biss began his campaign here, greeting commuters at the Main Street Metra station on March 21 about the need for change in Springfield.