BLOOMINGTON — From education to health care to social services, Daniel Biss' answer for funding is the same: Make the rich pay their fair share.
"Our (state) constitution says we have to have a flat income tax. It says that we are not allowed to ask (Gov.) Bruce Rauner and his $188 million salary to pay a higher (income) tax rate than a teacher," said the Democratic state senator from Evanston and gubernatorial candidate during a town hall meeting Wednesday in Bloomington.
"I don't think that's fair," he said. "I don't think that's just. I don't think that's logical."
"We're overtaxed in the middle class and yet our government is constantly dead, flat broke," he said. "Talking about tax reform like the world's worst broken record is crucial because it allows the rest of this to become possible."
About 75 attending the event at the McLean County Museum of History listened and asked questions as Biss spoke about moving schools from relying on property tax to income tax and making funding more fair; working toward a single-payer, government-funded health care system; and improving state funding for social service organizations.
Biss also promised to pursue criminal justice reform, including legalizing recreational marijuana, to work toward state-funded universal child care and to protect labor unions and collective bargaining.
"For the first time in American history, most people in their 30s say, 'My parents were doing better at my age than I am.' Think about what that means about the American dream," he said. "The only institution we have ever built ... that effectively pushes back against these trends is the labor union."
Biss said he hopes that set of values can capture the attention of voters despite well-funded campaigns from Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner and Democratic businessmen J.B. Pritzker and Chris Kennedy. Scott Drury, a state representative from Highwood, and Chicago Alderman Ameya Pawar also are among Democrats vying to oppose Rauner in 2018.
"We can't wait for a millionaire to ride in on a horse and fix it," he said. "We need a governor who doesn't come from a corporate boardroom where you don't have a legislature you need to partner with. We've learned something from watching this governor and this president (Donald Trump)."
When asked how he would work with House Speaker Michael Madigan, a Chicago Democrat and frequent target for Rauner, Biss said he's prepared to compromise — but only on certain principles.
"I know my values. I know where I'm not prepared to compromise, and I know where I am willing to compromise. We need a governor who works that way," he said. "Mike Madigan's been in power for way too long. He's too powerful. That power has held the state back. ... But I'll work with anyone, and I have worked with anyone."